We Rise: Yom Hashoah


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.


Tutti Fishman, Holocaust survivor, keynote speaker at University of New Haven annual Holocaust Remembrance Event

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Never forget. Never again.

Wednesday is Holocaust Remembrance Day. At the University of New Haven, Holocaust survivor Ruth Fishman of West Hartford provided the audience some powerful perspective.

“Six million Jews is twice the population of Connecticut. That gives you an image. I am one of the lucky ones. I survived,” Fishman said.


From the New Haven Register 3/28/2017
Ruth Fishman

WEST HAVEN >> Holocaust survivor Ruth Fishman of West Hartford will be the keynote speaker at the University of New Haven’s 14th annual Holocaust Remembrance Event at 3 p.m. April 19 in the Bucknall Theater in Dodd’s Hall on the UNH campus.

The ceremony, free and open to the public, will feature the reading of names of persons who perished in the Holocaust and who have a relationship to a member of the university.

The ceremony will include a rendition of the poem, “The Butterfly,” by Pavel Friedman, delivered by students in the theater department. Friedman was a prisoner at Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia near Prague, where Fishman also was held.

“The event has found resonance because it affords a unique opportunity for our students to get clear lessons on the roots of genocide and the importance of tolerance and understanding as bedrocks for a peaceful society,” said Ira Kleinfeld, professor emeritus of engineering and retired associate provost.

“Its primary purpose is to honor and memorialize the millions of Jews and others who were targeted and murdered during the Holocaust,” Kleinfeld said. “In today’s climate, such lessons are increasingly important.”

Ruth Lichtenstern Fishman was born in Cologne, Germany, on July 17, 1936, but moved with her family to Amsterdam. She was with her family at Theresienstadt when it was liberated by Soviet troops on May 9, 1945. She moved to the United States when she was 18.


West Hartford News March 30, 2017

WEST HAVEN >> Holocaust survivor Ruth Fishman of West Hartford will be the keynote speaker at the University of New Haven’s 14th annual Holocaust Remembrance Event at 3 p.m. April 19 in the Bucknall Theater in Dodd’s Hall on the UNH campus.

The ceremony, free and open to the public, will feature the reading of names of persons who perished in the Holocaust and who have a relationship to a member of the university.

The ceremony will include a rendition of the poem, “The Butterfly,” by Pavel Friedman, delivered by students in the theater department. Friedman was a prisoner at Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia near Prague, where Fishman also was held.

“The event has found resonance because it affords a unique opportunity for our students to get clear lessons on the roots of genocide and the importance of tolerance and understanding as bedrocks for a peaceful society,” said Ira Kleinfeld, professor emeritus of engineering and retired associate provost.


“Now it is Personal” by Howard Sovronsky, JFGH CEO

April 21, 2017

This winter, the Holocaust became personal. Not that I didn’t know what happened to millions of Jews and others considered undesirable by the Nazis – but my understanding came mostly from old newsreels and photos, stories in books, and the oral accounts of relative strangers. While powerful, my connection to the Holocaust lacked a certain intimacy until I visited a cousin in Israel this past January.

Madeline was my mother’s most favorite relative. She was hidden by a Polish physician for many years during the war and later discovered in a displaced persons camp. She arrived in Brooklyn at the age of 11. She grew to adulthood, married and had several children in the U.S., then followed them to Israel more than 40 years ago.

Our reunion was amazing. I had not seen Madeline in over 40 years, and during our time together I met cousins I never knew I had and learned secrets that had been hidden for over 70 years. I learned about Madeline’s father, my great Uncle Siegfried (shown above). He last resided in Krakow, Poland, and lost his life along with many other members of my family. To keep their memory alive, my cousins registered each family member at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. The photo and the registration document above are the only mementos I have of Uncle Siegfried. 

Monday is Yom HaShoah, the internationally recognized Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a day of deep sadness and one that begs us to ask many questions. Could we have done more to save those who perished? Probably; but we cannot go back and change the outcome. We can, however, look forward.

 Last night I sat with members of our community to discuss how to distribute funds raised through Federation’s Annual Campaign to help those who are most vulnerable in Israel and throughout the world. There we sat, 75 years after the Holocaust – when so many people were helpless and so few Jewish and non-Jewish organizations stepped up to offer assistance. We gathered last night as free American Jews, doing the holy work of helping others. Through Federation’s work, we will bring life and hope to struggling elderly Holocaust survivors the Former Soviet Union, to Ethiopian Jewish families and their children who are still trying to integrate into Israeli society, and to hundreds of children with special needs who require more intensive care than the government can provide. In 75 years, we have come a long way – and I, for one, am eternally grateful to be a part of this incredible effort.

 Many of us light special candles in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust. Let us remember everyone who died at the hands of the Nazis, and all those who have been murdered by ruthless parties who labeled them as “other.” Unfortunately, genocide is not limited to WWII. 

This Shabbat, I ask that you take to heart the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:

 We remember what happens when hate takes hold of the human heart and turns it to stone; what happens when victims cry for help and there is no one listening; what happens when humanity fails to recognize that those who are not in our image are nonetheless in G-d’s image. 

We remember and pay tribute to the survivors, who bore witness to what happened, and to the victims, so that, robbed of their lives, they would not be robbed also of their deaths. 

We remember and give thanks for the righteous of the nations who saved lives, often at risk of their own, teaching us how in the darkest night we can light a candle of hope.

Today, on Yom HaShoah, we call on You, Almighty G-d, to help us hear Your voice that says in every generation:

Do not murder.

Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.

Do not oppress the stranger.

 We know that whilst we do not have the ability to change the past, we can change the future.

We know that whilst we cannot bring the dead back to life, we can ensure their memories live on and that their deaths were not in vain.

 And so, on this Yom HaShoah, we commit ourselves to one simple act: Yizkor, Remember.

 May the souls of the victims be bound in the bond of everlasting life. Amen.

Shabbat Shalom.

Howard Sovronsky

President and CEO


Holocaust Escape Tunnel

For centuries, the Lithuanian city of Vilna was one of the most important Jewish centers in the world, earning the title “Jerusalem of the North” until World War II, when the Nazis murdered about 95% of its Jewish population and reduced its synagogues and cultural institutions to ruins. The Soviets finished the job, paving over the remnants of Vilna’s famous Great Synagogue so thoroughly that few today know it ever existed. Now, an international team of archaeologists is trying to rediscover this forgotten world, excavating the remains of its Great Synagogue and searching for proof of one of Vilna’s greatest secrets: a lost escape tunnel dug by Jewish prisoners inside a horrific Nazi execution site.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/Holocaust-escape-tunnel.html

 


‘Evening of Hope’ in West Hartford will Feature Holocaust History Scholar

http://we-ha.com/evening-hope-west-hartford-will-feature-holocaust-history-scholar/


Our Partnership with University of Hartford Museum of Jewish Civilization’s Exhibit “Hartford Remembers the Holocaust”

Students from Southington High School listen to testimony from Tutti Fishman as part of their museum tour on the University of Hartford campus.


Avon, Connecticut’s Dana Bock-Decoteau Speaks Out About Being a Second-Generation Holocaust Survivor

AVON, Conn. (MARCH 2017) – With great enthusiasm, Voices of Hope partnered with Speak Up Connecticut which offers their unique brand of engaging storytelling to its members and guests. Hence, Voices of Hope, which encourages Holocaust survivors and descendants to tell their stories in classrooms and at community commemorations, was a natural fit for this workshop.

Held in February, this Speak Up Connecticut event, featured stories from 7 children of Holocaust survivors, known as second generation survivors. One of the speakers, a member of our Oldcastle Precast family, was Dana Bock-Decoteau, Plant Accountant at Oldcastle Precast Avon, Connecticut.

Considering being a second-generation Holocaust survivor, a summary of Dana Bock-Decoteau’s story:

My Dad, born in Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) in 1934, is a Holocaust Survivor, who lost his father, aunts, uncles, and cousins in concentration camps. At the age of 8, he was sent to a labor camp and spent 2 years and 2 months there. He remembers during that time his tonsils became infected and consequently were removed without any anesthesia or medication by a Jewish doctor who was also an inmate.

However, in 1944, when he was 10, the camp was opened, but the war wasn’t over yet, so he went into underground hiding (literally) for 8 months. There were 10 people in a bunker, not enough room to stand, nowhere to bathe, and one loaf of bread, a week, to share.

He was then moved to Ireland to get Jewish children out of the country, and was part of a group of 120 children who no longer had adults in their lives. Later he went to Israel and then came to the U.S in 1959.

It’s hard for me to describe in a short paragraph how it affected me – but it has. In consideration, all the family I have left on my Dad’s side is him, his sister, and 3 cousins, and their immediate families.

Even though my Dad went through this awful experience, he nevertheless considers himself fortunate that while what he experienced was horrible, it could have been worse, as it was for other Holocaust victims.

Dana remarked, “Speaking at Speak Up CT, as a second-generation Holocaust survivor, was an amazing experience for me. I was surprised at how many people attended this event to hear our stories. Now that I’ve spoken at this one – I am trained to be a 2nd Generation Speaker at schools and other venues, which I plan on doing – I already got a request from a high school yesterday!”

Speak Up Connecticut commented, “Many, many thanks to all of the Speak Up fans who joined us for our Voices of Hope showcase. It was a spectacular show. Our storytellers all performed at an A+ level, and there was not a dry eye in the house. Congratulations to David Gerber, Dana Bock Decoteau, Barbara and Jerry Sperber, Adele Jacobs, Jane Coppa, and Allison Ghamo for your remarkable work. You were all shining stars.”

Voices of Hope are glad the Second Generation is talking and they are hoping that their audiences say, ‘I knew about the Holocaust but I didn’t really KNOW about it. That’s what Voices of Hope is fostering: we want people to understand because once all the survivors are gone, people are going to say, ‘It never happened.’

Voices of Hope is a non-profit organization created by descendants of Holocaust survivors from across Connecticut. Voices of Hope’s mission is to foster a culture of courage and social action against hate, bigotry, intolerance and indifference. We work closely with educators, students, community and civic groups to promote a greater understanding of genocide. Through the voices of survivors, students and others connect to individual experiences during the Holocaust and are inspired to stand against oppression and hatred today. Voices of Hope honors the legacy of the survivors and memory of the martyred and works to pass these lessons on to future generations. We cannot change the past; we can only hope these stories and life lessons will positively affect the future. Never Forget.

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Gisela’s Legacy Documentary and Panel Discussion – March 27, 2017


Pictures from our Speak Up Showcase on February 28th!