Local Holocaust survivors focus of Yom Hashoah program

Helen Kirschbaum, director of the JCRC’s Esther Raab Holocaust Museum & Goodwin Education Center, with Sidney Stoopler, 17, lighting a commemorative candle in honor of the fourth generation of survivors.

Helen Kirschbaum, director of the JCRC’s Esther Raab Holocaust Museum & Goodwin Education Center, with Sidney Stoopler, 17, lighting a commemorative candle in honor of the fourth generation of survivors.

“Never again is not a promise,” explained Holocaust survivor Abraham Foxman, the keynote speaker at the Community Yom Hashoah program, April 27, hosted by Temple Beth Sholom. “It’s an aspiration, which all of us have to work hard to make reality.”

To pay tribute to local Holocaust survivors and their respective families in the community, the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Esther Raab Holocaust Museum & Goodwin Education Center, in conjunction with the Tri-county Board of Jewish Clergy, (JCRC) sponsored a hybrid program with more than 300 in attendance over Zoom.

The program began with a special rendition of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. Video played of students singing in the Munkacs Hebrew gymnasium in Czechoslovakia in the early 1930s before Israel had gained independence, intertwined with video of students at Kellman Brown Academy (KBA) singing the same words today.

“For me, this video is especially moving because my wife’s grandparents were survivors from Munkacs and our children are among the students at KBA,” noted Rabbi Micah Peltz of Temple Beth Sholom.

A candle lighting ceremony featured six candles lit to commemorate each of the six million Jews who perished at the hands of Nazis. Holocaust survivor Charles Middleberg lit the first candle.

For 20 years, Middleberg has shared his story of fortuitous survival, of non-Jews who risked their lives to save him and his brothers; the janitor who rigged them a hiding place in the attic of their apartment building in Paris; the Catholic priest who gave them cover as altar boys so they could safely reunite three years later with their father who survived Auschwitz.

Gail Belfer, director of Holocaust Survivor Services and Advocacy at the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey (JFCS), and daughter of Holocaust survivor Cantor Israel Dubner, lit the second candle to honor the second generation of survivors.

Baily Kahan, co-director of the Chabad in Medford and granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors, lit the third candle for the third generation.

Four of Sidney Stoopler’s great-grandparents survived the Holocaust. Stoopler, a 17-year-old senior at Eastern High School lit the fourth candle to commemorate them and the fourth generation of survivors.

Marvin Raab lit the fifth candle in honor of his mother, Esther, whose escape from the horrors of the Sobibor death camp, is subject of the book and play, “Dear Esther.”

Izydor Einziger, the oldest Holocaust survivor in South Jersey at 103, lit the sixth candle. Escaping Nazi occupied Krakow when he was 20, Einziger fled to a safe house before having to survive the labor camps.

To honor the non-Jewish victims of the holocaust— the Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, political dissidents, disabled, and others, Father Michael Mannion, spiritual director of Discovery Ministries, lit a seventh candle.

Twenty-three Holocaust survivors in the South Jersey Jewish community passed away last year, one of whom was Karol Strender. After having his family tragically stolen from him, Strender would go on to fight for their memories against the Nazis as a soldier in the Russian army. To honor all the lives lost, Strender’s daughter Tanya, son-in-law Myron “Bucky” Buchman, and granddaughter Rachel Howe—lit a commemorative candle.

National director emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman is a member of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education and the US Holocaust Memorial Council. He spoke of being born at the wrong time in 1940 Nazi-occupied Poland, but that he managed to hide safely “because of the intercession of one person’s kindness and courage.”

That person was Foxman’s Catholic nanny, Bronislawa Kurpi. “I am here tonight because she risked her life for four years to save a Jewish child.”

Foxman said that the Holocaust didn’t begin with the gas chambers; that it began with ugly, hateful words that debased Jews. Foxman’s campaign is one against silence and indifference. “Knowing is not enough. Speak out and you will you help remember, and you will help repair the world,” he said.

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