Planting at Holocaust Memorial Garden signifies new hope

JECOCO members and JCC preschoolers remember, reflect, rebuild, renew


Preschool students joined members of the Jewish Community Council of Oceanside to add new plants to its memorial garden last week at the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center.

In the sudden, intense warmth of late spring, the old and new generations planted flowers in honor of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust and the 11 who died in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last October.

The garden’s purpose, to “remember, reflect, rebuild, renew” was on full display as JECOCO members recalled the people commemorated on plaques beside the garden — such as Holocaust survivors and longtime JECOCO members Mendy Berger and Peter Stone — and JCC early childhood teacher Shira Schuberg’s preschool class took turns helping to plant.

“The generation that really needs to remember isn’t the older generation,” said Gloria Lebeaux, director of social services at the JCC, “but the younger generation so that these ideas and traditions live on and the world sees some hope and change. The new generation is our new spring.”

As the group’s gardening expert Gerry Meyerson guided students to move dirt, drop in flowers and water the area, JECOCO President Sam Seifman and longtime member Joan Goldfaden explained the importance of the garden.

It came together in 2017 when Goldfaden realized that the community lacked a true Holocaust memorial. Sculptor Lea Weinberg, whose mother was a survivor, designed the garden’s centerpiece “Memory Tree.”

“Even when a major part of the tree is cut down, roots continue to grow,” the plaque reads, “Like my parents and many other Holocaust survivors who lost their families, but didn’t lose hope for a better future, and built a new life alongside memories of the past.”

In that spirit, JECOCO brings community members young and old together at the garden each year for Holocaust Remembrance Day and later on to plant new flowers for a new era.

“The garden is so that it’s not just plaques on a wall,” Seifman said, “but a living memory.”