April 17, 2024
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Riverdale ‘Story Keepers’ Observe Yom HaShoah

On April 7, the Riverdale community commemorated Yom HaShoah with a virtual program entitled, “Zochrim BaBayit” (Remembering at Home), featuring local rabbis and Holocaust survivivor families. The Riverdale Y coordinated this event.

Rosh Kehillah Dina Najman talked about Terezin, where many artists, musicians, scholars and professionals were imprisoned, explaining, “When the Red Cross came to inspect, the Nazis fabricated that the inmates partake in creative activities. They were given instruments to hold concerts and art supplies. This was done to hide the truth; they were starving, ill and dying.”

Najman also described art and poetry collections by Terezin’s Jewish children. SAR fourth-grader Hezekiah Konovitch read one of these poems, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.”

Najman stated, “We read this poem, thinking about the voices of 1.5 million Jewish children killed in the Shoah.”

Describing the program’s “Story Keepers” theme, Rabbi Barry Dov Katz of CSAIR noted, “One of the powerful things about living in a community is knowing many people. On this call, there are people who were in the camps and ghettos, who survived by fleeing to the former Soviet Union, or got out of Germany right after Kristallnacht. I have the privilege of hearing your stories. I carry those stories with me. What does it mean for us to be the ones who have stories from our own families or we’ve heard from other people? How do we share them? When do we share them? It’s an incredible responsibility to have stories in our souls and we must pass them on, so that this legacy is not forgotten.”

Katz introduced CSAIR member Jennifer Greenfeld who shared her family’s story, which was also recorded for Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. When her mother was born in 1937, her grandparents knew, as many did, Germany wasn’t a place where they could stay. Her grandfather wouldn’t leave because his mother was ill, but they prepared. They learned English once a week. Her grandfather learned to bake, even though he was a cattle broker. On Kristallnacht, they escaped by car to Nuremberg, where they stayed for a year. When their papers came through, they departed to Baltimore to raise their family. When Jennifer was 16, she visited Bavaria with her grandmother. Two years ago, Jennifer took her own children there, keeping this story alive for them.

RJC Rabbi David Zirkind introduced Sharon Salamon to share the experiences of her father, long-time RJC member Myron Weiss, z”l, who recently died. “One challenge of Yom HaShoah is to invest in the lives of people we never met, but a second dimension of Yom HaShoah is to mourn and commemorate the lives of survivors we knew, through the lives that they created for themselves after the war. They teach us many lessons about strength and courage, about determination and optimism; the kinds of lessons that we need in simpler times that they developed in far more challenging circumstances.”

Salamon explained how her father was a 20-year-old assigned to a labor unit cleaning Budapest’s streets after bombings in Nazi-occupied Hungary. He would sneak home to spend nights with his mother and sisters, then return in the morning prior to roll call. However, one morning he was caught, taken to the Dohany Synagogue, and held with several thousand Jews awaiting deportation. He later found out that those assembled at Dohany were taken on a death march to Austria in the bitter cold; very few members of that group survived. Fortunately, he had a Schutzpasse issued by the Swiss Consulate, allowing him to leave to the Swiss Embassy and remain there for several weeks. There, he procured documents for his parents. Eventually, the Russians arrived and they were freed.

“My family survived mostly intact and emigrated to the United States,” Salamon said, “My father never let us forget who they were and how they lived.”

Rabbanit Bracha Jaffe of HIR introduced Samuel Marder, who was 10 years old when the Nazis occupied his town of Czernovitz, Romania. He and his sister were deported to a camp in Transnistria, close to the Ukraine border. They were there for over three years until they were freed by the Soviets, later moving through Poland to a DP camp located in Germany before they immigrated to the United States with their mother.

Jaffe explained “Tonight, Sam decided to listen to other people’s stories.” Jaffe then read two poems from Marder’s book, “Devils Among Angels: a Journey from Paradise and Hell.”


Rabbi Hain of YIOZ-North Riverdale invited Zoom participants to join together and state names of family members they were remembering. The event concluded with participants going into breakout rooms so they could individually become “Story Keepers” themselves.

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