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Candles lit on Yom HaShaoh are calls to prevent genocide

Because memories can fade, Temple Beth Shalom holds an annual observance to remember the Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews plus millions of Catholics, activists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Romani, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, homosexuals, disabled people and others deemed undesirable by the Nazi regime in Germany between 1933 and 1945.

Survivors need to share what they experienced to prevent future genocide, said Dale Severance, temple president, in opening comments. 

Lighting Yom HaShaoh candles
Mary Stamp lighting 5th candle for rescuers

On the essay contest for high school students, she added: “We need to hear stories, remember victims and educate students on the Holocaust.”

The 2009 remembrance honored those who rescued Jews—hiding them, providing false papers, transporting them and giving them food.

Joe Shogun read Mayor Mary Verner’s proclamation of the need to remember victims, survivors, rescuers and liberators.  He added his concern that genocides have continued to happen—such as in Cambodia, Bosnia, Serbia, Rwanda and Sudan.

Hatemongers are back in Coeur d’Alene,” he said.  “We cannot rest, saying what happened in the past will not happen again.  We always need to remain vigilant and be ready to act.”

Hershel Zellman of the organizing committee introduced Holocaust survivor Eva Lassman, who is committed to educate the community and spread tolerance.

Experiencing the prejudice of playmates’ taunting and the horrors of Nazism, Eva said she could have been lost in hatred, but decided to promote understanding and respect for people regardless of religion, skin color or other factors.

Eva introduced 10th grader Camille Boyd, the 2009 essay contest winner.

After describing one rescuer, Nelly, taking in Jewish neighbors, Camille asked:  “How many of us today could say we would be brave and put the lives of others before our own? How often do we stand aside and watch others be ridiculed, not contributing directly, but not speaking up against it? At school, work, home, and within the general public, we witness these situations more often than we think.

When we see someone being harassed or abused, we have the tendency to walk away silently—setting aside justice and hoping another passerby will have the courage to save that person,” she said. “We stand aside and listen, or even join in, as our friends or others mock those seemingly different.

“Finding the courage to fight for justice is difficult, but it is the ever-present challenge we must choose to either overcome or succumb to,” Camille read.

The everyday heroes of the Holocaust were those brave enough to defy Hitler’s orders and save the lives of those being persecuted,” she said.  “They put aside their fears of persecution and sacrificed their comfort for the sake of justice.  By hiding a family or child from Hitler’s Nazis, ordinary citizens offered hope to others. Their courage will be remembered forever.”

In presenting the award, Miriam Abramowitz-Ferszt, whose story was in the April Fig Tree, said, “Let us not forget the acts of bravery.  May the world be filled with rescuers so the words of perpetrators of evil fall on deaf ears.”

Introducing the candle-lighting ceremony, Hershel reminded people that two-thirds of European Jews were killed in the Holocaust, reducing the global Jewish population by a third.

“It could have been worse.  Thanks to the humanity and bravery of some 22,000 non-Jews, thousands of Jews were saved from certain annihilation,” he said.  So the 2009 event recognized the “Righteous Among the Nations.”

Holocaust Survivors
Spokane Holocaust survivors

Local Holocaust survivors, Eva, Miriam, Carla Peperzak and Liliana Stewart, some of whom owe their survival to non-Jewish rescuers, lit a candle to remember those slaughtered by Nazis in ghettos, camps and death marches, and those who achieved “the ultimate victory through their survival, living to raise families, contribute to their communities and to inform us about the unspeakable things they endured and witnessed,” Hershel said.

The second candle, lit by Armand Abramowitz, Gabriele McIntyre and Yvonne Peperzak-Blake whose parents are Holocaust survivors, “memorializes more than 5,000 Jewish communities destroyed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators,” he said. 

The lighting of the third candle by Emilie and Zachary Lowhurst, whose grandparents are Holocaust survivors, was a moment for people to remember that 1.5 million Jewish children never grew up.

The fourth candle, lit by Phil Weiner, a Jewish member of the American Armed Forces who served in the European theater during WWII, represents the Jewish ghetto fighters and partisans who challenged the Nazi machine.  It also serves as a reminder of the Jewish members of Allied Forces who risked and sacrificed their lives to defeat the Nazis.

The fifth candle was lit by Mary Stamp, “whose ardent pursuit of honesty in the media and promotion of human rights led to the founding of The Fig Tree 25 years ago,” said Hershel, adding that the interfaith monthly newspaper “gives voice to the voiceless, challenges racist and gender-biased groups, and tells stories of everyday people who use their faith to heal the world around them.” 

This candle commemorated and honored the non-Jews who challenged the Nazi ideology and saved thousands of Jews from annihilation.

“Their actions were one of the few lights shining during that dark period,” he said.

The sixth candle, lit by local Jewish youth who have participated in programs for young adults in the State of Israel, symbolizes “the beacon of hope, unity and pride the State of Israel embodies for Jews all over the world,” he said.

Yom HaShaoh Candles
Yom HaShaoh Candles

The seventh candle for victims and survivors of contemporary genocides, was lit by Aloysie Mukankuri, who was 11 years old when the Rwandan genocide began. 

“Early on her father was murdered and her home destroyed.  By the time the killings ended three months later, she lost seven of her nine siblings,” he said.  “She escaped harm by hiding in bush lands where she took care of herself until she was reunited with her mother when the genocide ended.”

She recently earned a master’s degree in business from Eastern Washington University.

“This candle reminds us of the tremendous task we face to eliminate the hatred and bigotry that continues to spawn vicious acts of genocide by one people against another in our world today,” Hershel said.

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