Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemorated in Communities Across Connecticut

Hartford Courant April 25, 2017

Eric Zachs, of West Hartford, board chair of the Greater Hartford Jewish Federation, and other volunteers read the names of Holocaust victims in the Chase Family Gallery at the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford on Monday morning. Zachs is just one of dozens of people who read the names of Jewish children who perished during the Holocaust. Standing at a lectern in a low-lit gallery at the Mandell Jewish Community Center Monday morning, Meredith Smith and her twin daughters, Emelia and Samantha, read aloud names of those who died in the Holocaust as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“It worries me that it’s going to be lost at some point and not remembered the way it should be,” Smith said. “How do they know that there was such a tragedy? If we don’t know about it, it’ll happen again. It is happening, it does happen all over the world.”

Smith was one of nearly 100 people who, throughout the day, read some of the Holocaust victims’ names and ages at a remembrance with local nonprofit Voices of Hope. Similar events were scheduled around the state.

On the steps of Simsbury’s Eno Memorial Hall Monday morning, speakers read the names and ages of Holocaust victims over the sounds of bustling traffic on Hopmeadow Street. Volunteers started reading names aloud on Sunday evening in the 24 hour around-the-clock event.

Rabbi Bekah Goldman, of Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation, said the event holds extra weight in light of a string of recent religious hate crimes, including anti-Semitic threats to Jewish organizations 
“When it becomes OK to shoot up a mosque, or set a church on fire, or to graffiti a synagogue in broad daylight … when there are no repercussions, when our government doesn’t … say, ‘We condemn this behavior,’ that’s when hatred starts to take hold,” Goldman said. “That’s when … we all sort of stand by and allow this to happen.”

“I think today, more than any year in the past, it’s important for us to remember and to pass these lessons onto our children,” she said.
Caren Pauling of Avon volunteered for the first time this year after learning of the event via social media.

A member of Valley Community Baptist Church and mother of two, Pauling said it is important for people of all faiths, not just Jews, to take pause and remember those who perished, many of whom were children.

“We take so much for granted and it’s important to know and realize what these people sacrificed and went through, what they experienced because of their faith,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.

“I could read all day, knowing what they went through,” Pauling said. “It’s an honor.”

In the Chase Family Gallery at the Mandell JCC Monday, lights were dimmed, posters displayed art projects by second- and third-generation Holocaust survivors, and as each person completed their 10-minute speaking slot, they lit a candle in front of the podium. The poster art is based on a poem written by a man killed at Auschwitz.

The list of names was provided by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and is part of the Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance Day Honoring the Martyred Six Million, according to Voices of Hope Director Anna Huttner.
Voices of Hope organizers hope the nearly 100 speakers Monday will read 100,000 names total before the end of the remembrance ceremony at 8 p.m. Teachers, police officers, students, business leaders and town officials are some of the volunteers scheduled to read names during the day. Others include two visiting priests from Tanzania. Organizers expect students from Watkinson School, Hebrew High School and the BBYO teen leadership youth group to attend Monday’s ceremony.

This is the fourth remembrance ceremony the group has hosted at the Mandell JCC, Huttner said.

“It’s not a Jewish issue, it’s a human issue,” Huttner said.

On Friday, state leaders, Holocaust survivors and members of the community are asked to attend 39th annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony. The ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. on the third floor of the Capitol in Hartford. The theme of this year’s event is: “Early Warning Signs: Lessons from Vienna 1938.”

Keynote speaker Leah Linton, born in Vienna, was 12 when Adolf Hitler came to power. Her father was killed in Auschwitz,and her brother spent six months in Dachau. Linton moved to the U.S. when she was 13 and lives in Southbury.

The event is sponsored by the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, the Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut, Voices of Hope, the Anti-Defamation League and the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, among others.

A kosher lunch will follow for Holocaust survivors, program participants and elected officials. Those interested in attending the lunch are asked to RSVP to Ayelet Weber at the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, 860-727-5771 or email aweber@jfact.org.