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Hundreds Join Annual Greater Teaneck Yom HaShoah Commemoration

On May 5, distinguished dignitaries, rabbis and lay leaders from Bergen County and members of the Bergen County communities of Teaneck, Bergenfield and New Milford attended the “Greater Teaneck Annual Yom HaShoah Holocaust Commemoration” event held at Bergenfield High School.

“We are grateful to Bergenfield High School and Principal James Fasano for his hospitality in opening their doors to us for such a meaningful gathering,” said Chani Jaskoll, co-chair of the commemoration committee together with Felicia Grossman. “We appreciate your ongoing cooperation in keeping the messages of the Holocaust front and center in the Teaneck, Bergenfield and New Milford communities.”

Jaskoll also acknowledged the cherished survivors of the Shoah present in the audience and the individuals and local synagogues who made this annual event possible through their generous contributions.

While honoring the 6 million lives lost in the Holocaust, the darkness present in today’s world was also noted. Antisemitic incidents are escalating at an alarming rate not only in the United States, but across the world. And our college and university campuses are in crisis. Rabbi Elliot Schrier, rabbi of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, said, “We live in a world of darkness and tonight we make sure that we kindle lights.” The rabbi also shared his memories of the emotional impact of seeing shoes belonging to the victims of Auschwitz and then seeing the shoes of the victims of the massacre in Israel. The singing of “Acheinu” followed. The connection of the past to the present was also highlighted with a call for the hostages’ return and “Never Again Means Now” not as just a slogan, but more as a promise, a vow.

“Who would have imagined Teaneck the target of such vile antisemitic caravans and protests outside our houses of worship, all trying to delegitimize the State of Israel?” speaker Steve Fox, president of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Teaneck, the sponsoring organization of the Yom HaShoah event, said. “Who would have imagined that Teaneck High School would be the site of a student walkout with the chants of ‘From the River to the Sea” and “Free Palestine at Any Cost” reverberating outside our municipal building? Teaneck, as the largest Jewish community in Bergen County: We have and will continue to respond to the hate.”

Thomas Sullivan, commissioner, Bergen County, read a proclamation. “Representing Bergen County and the 1 million residents, on behalf of the county executive, the Board of Commissioners, we felt that we definitely needed to have a resolution for this event tonight,” he said. “Therefore be it resolved that the Bergen County Board of Commissioners solemnly recognizes Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day and honors the memory of millions of lives lost during the Holocaust. Be it further resolved that the Bergen County Board of Commissioners extends its heartfelt acknowledgement to the community of Bergenfield for their observance of Yom HaShoah and we join them in honoring the memory of the victims. ”

Sullivan also had a proclamation for keynote speaker Tova Friedman. “In honor of the recognition of serving as the guest speaker at Bergenfield’s Holocaust Commemoration Program on behalf of the nearly 1 million residents of Bergen County, we stand with you in solitude and extend our heartfelt gratitude for your contributions to the remembrance ceremony. Bergen County will always stand with you.”

Friedman, a Holocaust survivor, shared her harrowing testimony of being a child sent to Auschwitz. She is the author of the book “Daughter of Auschwitz” and taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; she became the director of Jewish Family Services of Somerset and Warren Counties, New Jersey, working more than 20 years as a therapist.

“The world is getting worse and worse,” Friedman told the audience. “We have a virus, antisemitism. The question is: Is speaking about the Holocaust helpful? I don’t know. The message is that if we allow hatred and prejudice to govern us and encompass us in our thoughts, everybody is going to suffer.

“It’s not only the Jews. This whole country has become divided. There is hatred everywhere and it’s extremely scary, especially for Holocaust survivors and especially when I hear my grandkids who go to college are wondering what to do with their Magen David. Should they wear it inside or outside?”

Friedman added: “Don’t forget. But also a warning: We as Jews have to stick together and do something.”

Holocaust survivor Norbert Strauss also spoke, sharing his personal story of living under the Nazi regime. Additionally, he told of his eight grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren, his heritage and legacy. Some of Strauss’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Avi Strauss, Doni Perl, Gabbi Perl, Rafi Perl and Benyamin Strauss, also spoke, telling of the personal legacy that Strauss is leaving to them, individually. The Holocaust survivor and each of the Strauss family members lit a commemorative candle.

The event also featured the singing of the national anthem, Hatikvah, Ani Maamin, the Partisan Song and the reading of mizman tehillim, two chapters of songs, one in memory of the 6 million and one for our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael. Afterwards, Acheinu was sung.

The lower level of the Teaneck library is featuring a special art exhibit entitled “Precious Treasures Lost and Found” by Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, on display until the end of May. Additionally, said Fox, “we have been working on creating a Holocaust Memorial and Education Center in Teaneck to serve the entire region. In December, the Town Council approved our new design for an interactive memorial wall that will provide history of the Shoah, its various stages on one side and offer the community opportunity to dedicate a space to a loved one that will include photos and information that you will be able to upload on our app, so a visitor pointing a phone to a wall will be able to learn who that person was and read about their story. Nowhere in the world is there a Holocaust Memorial like this.”

The Greater Teaneck Annual Yom HaShoah Holocaust Commemoration answered “the need to keep the precious memories of the victims of the Shoah alive and vibrant in our hearts, minds and minds of our children, our grandchildren and future generations,” said Jaskoll.

Susan R. Eisenstein is a longtime Jewish educator, passionate about creating special, innovative activities for her students. She is also passionate about writing about Jewish topics and about Israel. She has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.

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