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Area to mark Yom HaShoah

Saturday night begins the 27th day of Nissan, the Hebrew date chosen by the Israeli Knesset as Yom HaShoah, Holocaust memorial day. For more than 20 years, one of the most vivid commemorations has been the March of the Living, in which thousands of young Jews walk the three kilometers from the Auschwitz concentration camp to the gas chambers at Birkenau.

This year, for the first time, the memorial ceremony held at Birkenau following the march will be broadcast by Jewish Life Television, and the broadcast will be the centerpiece of the annual commemorations of the UJA Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Frisch School in Paramus.

The broadcast will feature an addresses from Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Holocaust survivor Irving Roth, director of the Holocaust Resource Center at Temple Judea in Manhasset, N.Y., who founded the Adopt a Survivor program. There will also be music from singer Dovid (Dudu) Fisher and the chief cantor of Tel Aviv, who will chant the El Maleh memorial prayer.

The Paramus event is one of dozens of community Yom HaShoah commemorations around the country that will be tuning in to the March of the Living broadcast.

In addition to the broadcast, the Paramus ceremony will feature a procession of 68 children holding candles, marking the 68th year since the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and a commemoration for the Jews of Europe held in Paterson in 1943. That commemoration became an annual event and was the precursor of the UJA Federation commemoration, making this the oldest continuous Holocaust program in the United States, according to Wally Greene, spokesman for the UJA Federation Holocaust Memorial Committee.

On Sunday evening, a recording of Hoenlein’s remarks will be played at another community Yom HaShoah event, at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, at 7 p.m.

The keynote speaker at the JCC event will be Eva Lux Braun, who survived Auschwitz and lives in Queens. She will share her first-hand experience about what it was like for her and her loved ones to suffer in Auschwitz, how they coped with things that should never occur in everyday life, and the “small miracles connected to faith, hope, and survival.”

There will be a candlelighting ceremony by survivors and their families.

The Abe Oster Holocaust Remembrance Award will be presented to the winner of a contest in which high school students were asked to write a poem that conveys lessons learned from studying the Holocaust.

The Yeshivat Noam Choir, students of the JCC Thurnauer School of Music, and Abraham Barzelay will provide music.

Also on Sunday night, at 8 p.m., five Englewood synagogues will hold a community Yom HaShoah event at Cong. Ahavath Torah, featuring a video presentation, “Triumph of the Spirit,” the story of Esther Jungreis and her family during and after the Holocaust.

“The message of the film is that even though the intent was to eradicate the Jewish people, we survived and came through,” said Richard Friend, chairman of the committee that organizes the event.

“It’s a very moving film,” he said.

In Teaneck, the annual Holocaust remembrance will take place 7:30 p.m Monday night at Teaneck High School featuring Fanya Gottesfeld Heller. Heller is the author of “Love in a World of Sorrow: A Teenage Girl’s Holocaust Memoirs,” which was made into the documentary film “Teenage Witness: The Fanya Heller Story.”

There will be a musical performance by Zalmen Mlotek.

 
 

Area marks Yom HaShoah

Kaplen JCC: ‘The Holocaust made me who I am’

“When I think back — and I do — there are no words to convey the horror,” Eva Lux Braun told hundreds gathered at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades to mark Yom HaShoah Sunday night.

Braun, a native of Hungary who survived Auschwitz, was the evening’s keynote speaker.

The evening also featured a recorded address from Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; a ceremony in which six candles were lit by survivors and their families; musical performances by the JCC Thurnauer School of Music, the Yeshivat Noam Choir, and harmonicist Abraham Barzelay; and the awarding of the Abe Oster Holocaust Remembrance Award for the best poems by high school students.

Braun said she grew up in a comfortable middle-class Jewish family who were isolated from society and then ordered from their home after Hitler invaded.

“All the months of hardship prior to the deportation, we reassured each other that at least we were together,” she said.

But at the gates of Auschwitz, they were separated by Joseph Mengele.

Braun and her sister Vera were sent in one direction; her mother and her youngest sister were sent in the other. Braun was not yet 17.

“My mother’s last words to me and my sister were ‘stay together.’

“Later I asked a kapo [a prisoner who supervised other prisoners] where were my mother and sister taken. He pointed to the chimneys where the acrid black smoke burned.

“The force that continued to give me strength to survive was the importance of fulfilling my mother’s last words, to never be separated from my sister, and the hope that we would be reunited with my father, who was taken to a different part of the camp.”

Throughout their stay in Auschwitz, and in the forced marches after the camp was evacuated as the Russians approached in December of 1944, Braun and her sister stayed together. After liberation they returned to their home. But they never found their father.

“I counted 64 members of my extended family among the martyrs and heroes,” she said. “Each and every absence influenced my life. We survivors honor them by speaking of their tragic fate.

“The Holocaust made me who I am. It shaped my life. The tattoo on my arm has faded as the skin on my arm has wrinkled, but it is still strikingly visible. As long as we survivors can remember our experiences, listen to us.”

Braun’s story was recently adapted into a picture book for children aged 5 to 8. “The Promise” tells how Braun remained with her sister and of their imprisonment in Auschwitz, but omits the killing of her parents and other details that might be inappropriate for children. It can be read online or purchased at http://bit.ly/jsbraun.

 
 
 
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