Friday, June 05, 2020

In collaboration with 20 local synagogues and the greater Teaneck community, the Holocaust Commemoration Committee of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Teaneck marked the 80th anniversary of the onset of the Shoah on Wednesday evening, May 1, at Teaneck High School. As it has done for the past 37 years, the committee, now under the co-chairmanship of Amy Elfman and Felicia Grossman, works assiduously for many months to honor the memories of the victims of the Holocaust and the courage of the survivors and their families. The program drew a large attendance but a very small representation of survivors as demonstrated when they were asked to stand. Given the dwindling numbers of the survivors, the need to perpetuate the memories of the Holocaust for future generations is crucial. As Amy Elfman noted in her opening remarks, the young people of today are the last to hear about the infamy of the Holocaust from actual survivors.

The children of Congregation Beth Sholom’s Tzipporei Shalom Children’s Choir led the national anthem followed by an original Yiddish hymn. Representatives of Mayor Hameeduddin’s office read the Proclamation tribute to Yom HaShoah.

The keynote speaker of the evening was Toby Levy, who survived the Holocaust as a young child. Widowed four years ago, she searched for additional meaning to her life and contacted the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s docent program. Accepted enthusiastically, she now tours groups through the museum and speaks to public- and private-school students about her Holocaust saga. She shared a recent highlight of her speaking engagements. A young teenager came to her after her presentation and confided that she had learned a great lesson from Levy. “When you told us that your greatest revenge was surviving, marrying a wonderful man, raising a family and being happy to get up each morning, I was puzzled. Until now, I thought that revenge was only killing the person who harmed you.”

Levy and eight others in her extended family survived the Holocaust in her little Polish town of Chodorow through the resourcefulness and quick-thinking of her father. His unremitting determination that someone would survive to tell the tale, his clinging to his religious beliefs and rituals and his ability to stay one step ahead of the encroaching Nazis enabled his family to be among only 31 Jewish survivors of the town. But survival was not easy, as Levy detailed in her graphic narrative of the family hiding in the barn of a neighboring Polish family.

Jonathan Rimberg’s musical tribute culminated in the traditional singing of the Partisan’s Song followed by the recitation of Psalm 79 by Rabbi Kenneth Schiowitz of Congregation Shaare Tefillah. Joining Arline Duker in the reading of the names of victims related to local families was Rabbi Dan Rosen of Yeshivat Frisch, replacing Rabbi John Krug, who recently made aliyah. The candle-lighting ceremony included three generations, even four in one instance. The Kaddish and Kel Maleh were led by Rabbi Yosef Adler of Congregation Rinat Yisrael.

The community is invited to view the creative and thought-provoking Holocaust artwork created by the students of Yeshivat Frisch’s Artist Beit Midrash and Art Track Program created by Ahuva Winslow, director of visual arts at Yeshivat Frisch.The exhibit is being displayed at the Teaneck Library during the month of May and at the Bergenfield Library during the month of June.

By Pearl Markovitz