July 15, 2024
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TABC Holds Annual Yom HaShoah Commemoration

On Monday April 24, TABC held its annual Yom Hashoah Commemoration. Seniors are immersed in an intensive Holocaust studies class taught by Cary Reichardt, which prepares them for this student driven program. Coordinated by Donna Hoenig, director of admissions, and Leah Moskovits, TABC librarian, the program is a tribute to ancestors of the students who either endured or perished during the Holocaust.

The event opened with two minutes of silence followed by opening remarks from Rabbi Adler, expressing the importance of survivors sharing their testimonies with this generation.

“Holocaust studies was my most informative course of the year,” commented TABC senior Ephraim Poloner. Senior Aviad Shely added that he jumped at the opportunity to take this class. “I always knew I would learn something each time I went to class.”

Yechiel Mincis introduced six students who shared stories of a relative’s experience in the Shoah and then lit a candle in their honor or memory. Menachem From of Teaneck lit a candle in memory of his great grandmother as his grandmother looked on with pride. “At first I was nervous to speak about this, but after doing some research I realized how important it is to tell the story,” said From. Nachum Freedman from Passaic lit a candle in memory of his grandmother who he said used unconventional measures to survive. “My grandmother pretended to be a mechanic at a time when that was very uncommon, especially for a woman. Her survival skills were amazing, teaching me that in desperate times you have to work hard,” expressed Freedman. Nathanael Vinar lit a candle in memory of his great grandmother, conveying that “despite what she went through, she radiated positivity and optimism.”

Ari Lowy composed and delivered an original poem entitled “Doomed Voyage,” which was both profound and moving. The student perspective on the Shoah was presented by Shely who emphasized the difficulty many have in learning about the Holocaust. Nonetheless, he believes Holocaust awareness is important for humanity, not just Jewish people. “From them the inhumane was a very human characteristic; this was the Nazi sin. They show humanity’s capacity for evil, we show humanity’s capacity for perseverance,” articulated Shely. From his perspective, the best way to commemorate the past is via empathy, not just for the dead or for those still struggling, but for those who never even had a chance. “Our duty is to be vigilant; their right is to be remembered,” he concluded.

A choir led by Rabbi Raphi Mandelstam, accompanied by a pictorial presentation in the background, set the tone for the keynote speaker George Blank, who was aptly introduced by his grandson, TABC student Alex Ostrin, who told the audience that his grandfather is “a man who sees the positive in even the hardest of times.”

Blank, just a small boy at the start of the Holocaust, recognizes that it was the hand of God that saved him many times along the way. In retelling his story, he explains how crucial the State of Israel is today and how different history might have been had it existed at the time of the Holocaust. The Nazis wanted to get rid of the Jews but no one wanted them and they did not have a homeland, he explained. It was then that plans for the final solution were discussed. What if there was a state of Israel in 1942? How many Jews might have escaped and survived? Blank noted that throughout history we see that when we had a homeland we were glorified and when we lost it we were scattered around the world.

Blank urged the audience to remember that history can repeat itself. Today’s Jewish community in certain parts of the world is changing dramatically. The Chief Rabbi of Paris recently cautioned against wearing a kippah in public. Once again, European Jews are under attack, he warned. “The state of Israel is critical to each and every Jew,” declared Blank.

Beside him was his longtime friend and fellow survivor Yehuda Reich. Not fluent in English, he had Blank speak on his behalf, retelling his harrowing tale of survival and hailing him as a true hero. Although he found himself at death’s door on many occasions, Reich survived Aushwitz. On January 27,1945 he was liberated at the age of 14, weighing 55 pounds. In 1948 he immigrated to Israel where he, along with others, built a life on a kibbutz. Reich married and created a successful life which included service in the IDF. He currently lives in Edison, and is an active member of the Jewish community. The best thing is that “The Third Reich is gone and buried and Yehuda Reich is alive,” professed Blank.

In conclusion, Blank offered the TABC students some advice. “Learning Torah-based values and being a mensch is the foundation of a good life. You are standing on the shoulders of great people who came before you. Embrace your history and pursue greatness.”

The program culminated with a beautiful recitation of the Kel Maleh by Rabbi Adler.

By Andrea Nissel

 

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