April 17, 2024
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Honoring Generations Lost: Family and the Holocaust

New York—Over 400 students, faculty and staff gathered in the Lamport Auditorium on the Wilf Campus of Yeshiva University on May 4 to commemorate Yom HaShoah and remember the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. The theme of this year’s ceremony, organized by SHEM, the Student Holocaust Education Movement at YU, was “Honoring Generations Lost: Family and the Holocaust.”

In her introductory remarks, SHEM Vice President Lani Prus ’17S described how Nazi oppression shattered the Jewish family. A candle-lighting ceremony, led by SHEM Programming Director Yael Steinberg ’17S, paid tribute to “husbands and wives torn apart from each other, children ripped from their homes at a young age, our ancestors, sisters and brothers who perished,” as well as “the world of Torah that was destroyed and that we must rebuild.” The ceremony also honored Holocaust survivors who went on to form new families—including surrogate families composed of other survivors—after the loss of their closest relatives.

The event also featured an interview with Holocaust survivor Martin Greenfield (conducted by SHEM President Yedidyah Weiss ’17YC) and renowned speaker and author Rabbi Hanoch Teller. Greenfield, 88, a master tailor and the author of the acclaimed memoir, Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents’ Tailor, was deported at the age of 15 with his parents and siblings and was the sole member of his family to survive. He received an honorary degree at YU’s 2015 commencement.

Addressing the audience, Greenfield’s voice shook with emotion. “I cannot describe how happy I am to be invited to Yeshiva,” he said. “How lucky we are that we are in America…we’re the safest people to be here, and you are our future. I speak all over the world, but there is nothing like being here tonight, and if you would see in my heart, this is the happiest day of my life.”

The student a cappella group Y-STUDS opened with “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah,” and then offered “Esa Einai,” “Kol Berama,” and “Ani Ma’amin,” songs of faith and resilience. Rabbi Menachem Penner, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and Undergraduate Torah Studies, recited “Kel Malei,” the traditional prayer in memory of the dead.

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