April 9, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Holocaust Survivor Suzie Wilf Speaks on Yom HaShoah

“Never Forget Is Now,” this year’s theme for the virtual 2021 Holocaust remembrance at Kean University, opened with the legacy of fourth-generation survivors, poignantly shared by Elyse Shainbrown, director of Holocaust education for the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. She told of attending a recent double bar mitzvah of twins, with all of the great-grandparents on both sides being Holocaust survivors. One of them was 97 years old, having also survived COVID-19—a “dual survivor.”

Dr. Lamont Repollet, president of Kean University, presented greetings, words of consolation to the survivors and their families, and recognition of the global loss to all humanity at the hands of Nazi terror. “How different might our world look today if entire families and communities had not been wiped out,” he said. “With the rise of neo-Nazism, hate crimes and white supremacy, memory of the Holocaust is more relevant than ever. Especially in the current climate, it exemplifies what can happen when hateful ideology and practice is permitted to flourish.”

Lamont implored everyone to challenge hate in all forms, and stand up for those who suffered and continue to suffer because of hatred. “We must be the change we wish to see in this world.”

Holocaust survivor Suzie Wilf, of Elizabeth, shared her story. She and her husband, Joe, were blessed to live the dreams her parents had for her by coming to the United States. Thanks to “false papers,” she said, her family lived as camouflaged Jews and were able to escape.

In America, the family has been blessed beyond their wildest dreams, with wonderful children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, Wilf said with delight. The family built a successful business and were able to be a major part of building the communities of Hillside and Elizabeth, and to contribute to the establishment and maintenance of many educational institutions and important philanthropic organizations.

The candle lighting ceremony was presented by David Saginaw, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and began with Wilf representing all survivors. Gabe Halpern, a third-generation survivor, lit the second candle together with his grandmother Gladys Halpern, who survived with her husband, Sam, z”l.

Righteous rescuers were represented by Ingrid Steppic, daughter of righteous rescuers who saved over 40 Jews, lighting the third candle. Representing educators, the fourth candle was lit by Karen Stark and Dr. Concetta Donvito, both members of the Holocaust education professional staff at Kean University. Peter Hirschman escaped Nazi Germany to the United States and enrolled in the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to Europe to fight. He lit the fifth candle, representing the liberators, POWs and World War II veterans. The sixth candle was lit by Larry Glaser, former director of the New Jersey State Commission on Holocaust Education.

Yvette Andriola, member of the Holocaust Council committee, emphasized the commitment to “remember, record and respond to injustice—now and in the future, and to ensure that the stories are not forgotten.” Andriola introduced the “Golden Ochtaves” of Golda Och Academy, who presented the choral composition “Eli, Eli” written by Chana Senesh.

Dr. Adara Goldberg, director of Holocaust Resource Center of Kean University, marveled at how Holocaust survivors adapted to “the new normal” and the technology born of necessity as COVID spread throughout the area, forcing isolation back into their and everyone’s lives. They “persevered through the challenges and gained confidence,” she said. They became her “guiding star,” showing strength and resilience.

To close the event, a slideshow of old and new photos of survivors who rebuilt their lives in the New Jersey MetroWest area was presented, accompanied by the recorded vocals of Sam Halpern, z”l, accompanied by his grandchildren, to the time-honored tune of Shalom Aleichem.

View the 2021 Holocaust Remembrance on YouTube: https://bit.ly/2RqFo8q.

By Ellie Wolf

 

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