Survivors commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day


Nearly 80-years ago, one of the biggest genocides in history occurred, the Holocaust. The Nazi regime murdered 13 million people, including 6 million Jews.

The United States and Israel remember the end of the Holocaust on Holocaust Remembrance Day, known as Yom Hashoah. Established in 1959,  the day corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar and it marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. This year the day was commemorated from sundown on May 5 to May 6.

In Woodmere, the Five Towns Premier Nursing and Rehab Center held a Yom Hashoah program on Monday. The program included a half dozen Holocaust survivors with members of their family and a 100-year old World War II military veteran. Along with seventh- and eighth-graders from the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, a speech from Joseph Bendon, the administrator at Five Towns Premier, and prayers from Josh Aaron,  the facility’s cantor.

The survivors attendance were ⎯ Libby Berger, Brenda Blisko, Klara Kletter, Harry Rozental, Joseph Shalitzky and Thea Tepfer. Marvin Jacobs is the centenarian WWII veteran.

“Today on Holocaust Remembrance Day, we stand in solidarity here at the Five Towns Premier and with people all around the world,” said Cathy Byrne, the Premier’s gerontologist. “Today is a day to always remember the darkness and history, and to give honor to our brave Holocaust survivors.”

Every year on Yom Hashoah, a special memorial candle, called a yahrzeit (anniversary candle) is lit in honor of those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

“Today we must affirm that hate has no place here, and the atrocities of the Holocaust shall never be erased from history and will never be forgotten,” Bendon said.

The phrase “never again” is associated with the lessons of the Holocaust. Every year Jews say, “never again” to in an effort to prevent another genocide from happening. Also to commemorate the liberation of Jewish slaves in the concentration camps.

“Never again will the world allow the decimation of six million Jews, but can we really say ‘never again’?” asks Rabbi Heshy Blumstein, who serves as the Premier’s spiritual leader. “As good people we have to live our lives and continue our lives with a positive attitude as if it will never happen again.”

Residents, staff, survivors and family members were teary eyed when the HALB students lead a song. After singing, the students read pre-written statements explaining what the Holocaust was and why it happened.

As each survivor was introduced and their bio was read, the room was silent. Each survivor’s story and Holocaust experience differs from the next. The survivors lit candles in memory of their families that died in the Holocaust.

“Time is running short,” Byrne said. “We have living history of survivors that overcame the torture and abuse under Nazi regime. We must never forget the lessons of the Holocaust. Our commemoration is not only a day to mourn the losses of over 6 million Jews, but also a day to honor our survivors for their courage and heroism. Now, more than ever we need to stand up to hatred and bigotry.”