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Come forward May 1 for a day of remembrance and bring your teens

I finally get it!


At 74 years of age I have been surrounded by my family. I had great-grandmothers, grandmothers and grandfathers and many aunts, uncles and cousins to share with me moments of joy and sorrow. While I was enjoying these wonderful moments, it never resonated with me that others in our community and in Jewish communities all over the world, and even in my own extended family, did not have such family right by their side as I did.

As a child I did know that many of my relatives had come from Europe, looking for a safe haven, the Goldene Medina. Those family members and friends were welcomed amongst my family with eager arms and hearts.

Many of these people — we call them survivors now — were called the greenes, the newcomers, the New Americans by other American Jews who had been fortunate to have been born in the United States. Those new arrivals formed their own world, right at the edge of our existing Jewish American society. They became family to one another as they had each most likely lost many of their immediate family members. They sang together, they grieved together and they understood each other. We assited them with jobs and money to help them begin anew, but they really didn’t ask much of the general Jewish community. In general, they made their own way, always at each other’s side offering love and support that they had been deprived of due to the loss of so many family members.

We have lost so many survivors, many dear friends and family members of yours and mine. But their children live on, and they too, are survivors. Some were born in farmhouses in Poland or Germany, some in DP camps, some aboard ships that were guided to our shores anxious to see the Goldene Medina.

Since the Holocaust we have heard the words “Never Again” over and over. But what do we do to ensure it shall never be again? We join AIPAC and J Street. We send our children to day and overnight Jewish camps. We have them join youth groups and send them to conclaves, leadership training weekends, to the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., March of the Living or Birthright. Following these experiences, we have them address their congregations.

Is this really enough? Why aren’t we teaching them more about the Holocaust? Why aren’t we making sure they attend programs like our community’s Yom HaShoah commemoration, set for Sunday, May 1, at 1:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Campus? On that day once every year we join together to remember those we have lost and say “Never Again.”

I admit it, I haven’t personally attended many of these services over the years. Perhaps I simply thought this doesn’t pertain to me. But now I get it. This service pertains to me. My generation, and our children and their children, need to support the few survivors we have left as well as their children, who are also survivors. They have all suffered tremendously and we need to remember their pain. If we forget, these things could happen again.

It appears to me that we need to do more to make sure our youth care about the Holocaust and care about these very important people. I don’t understand why members of our youth groups — USY, NFTY, BBYO, NCSY — do not attend this service in great numbers. Is it not a part of their mission and their programming to be present at such an important event? Now is the time to explain to them just why their presence, in large numbers, is needed. 

It’s important to me to come forward and stand by my friends, remembering their perils and strength that they showed to begin anew. I encourage you, and your children, to join with me at the Yom HaShoah commemoration May 1 for a day of remembrance and to offer our love and support to our survivors and second generation survivors.