Annual Holocaust Remembrance Service Pays Tribute to Those Lost
Monday, April 23, 2012 • 5:14pm
MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The 35th Annual Interfaith South Orange/Maplewood Holocaust Remembrance Service at St. George's Episcopal Church in Maplewood on Sunday was well-attended despite the heavy rain. The inclement weather, however, did cause the cancellation of a processional from Jefferson School on Ridgewood Road.
South Orange Village President Alex Torpey and Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca read proclamations from their respective municipalities recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Day and teaching against hatred and intolerance. The Rev. Bernard W. Poppe, rector of St. George's, welcomed parishioners from various religious congregations in his opening prayer.
"It's a powerful image," Poppe said, "when friends, neighbors, and family come together from so many different places to witness not only to the memory of the Holocaust, but to make the phrase 'Never again!' have some real meaning."
The evening featured sacred songs about loss and renewal from the Jewish and Christian faiths, as well as a Kaddish, a Jewish prayer for the dead, led by Cantor Joan Finn of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel.
Candles along the church's center aisle, called chai candles (chai is the Hebrew word for "life") as an acknowledgement of witness to the failure of the Nazis to exterminate Jews and others, while 11 more candles at the altar - one candle for every one million people killed in the Holocaust - were lit by Holocaust survivors, Jewish war veterans, and descendants of Gentiles who saved Jews during the Second World War. Among them were: Dr. Norbert Bikales, a German Jew who was sent to France and saved by the French Jewish relief group Implementation Of Relief to the Children (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, or OSE) when his family was deported to Poland; Hedy Brasch, who survived imprisonment at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp with her sister before they were reunited with their mother in the United States; Harry Ettlingler, who emigrated to the United States in October 1938 and served in the U.S. Army, where he helped recover art treasures stolen by the Nazis, and; Gina Lanceter, who survived a Polish ghetto and escaped from a cattle train taking Jews to the death camps through a window at the urging of her parents, who did not survive.
The original keynote speaker, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, was forced to cancel at the last minute when he was called to meet with President Obama in Washington. Ron Meyer, director of the New York chapter of the ADL, gave the address in Foxman's place.
Meyer told the story of his paternal grandparents, and how they left a once-comfortable life in Bucholt, a small German city on the border with the Netherlands, to escape harassment from anti-Semites at the dawn of the Third Reich and settled in Frankfurt, hoping to find a better life in a city with a large Jewish population, only to watch the beginning of the terror to come.
Meyer's grandparents witnessed the horror of Kristallnacht in November 1938. His paternal grandfather was arrested and sent to the Buchenwald camp but was able to get out, and Meyer's paternal grandmother was able to get the entire family to Great Britain in February 1939, arriving in America in 1940. His maternal grandparents weren't so lucky; they were able to get Meyer's mother transport to England, but they were among the millions of Jews murdered by the Nazis.
His maternal grandmother, who settled in the Baltimore area, was never able to relocate, even within metropolitan Baltimore, without experiencing feelings of regret. "Moving, relocating, has always been intertwined with time and loss," Meyer said.
"It's about time and memory," he said of the need for subsequent generations and for descendants of Holocaust to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. "It is our shared responsibility to pass on our memories and educate future generations about the Holocaust and what it means today."