Comemoration to honor Warsaw Ghetto
By Stacey Dresner
GREATER SPRINGFIELD – The Greater Springfield Jewish community will commemorate Yom Hashoah this year on Sunday, April 7 at 7 p.m. at Sinai Temple. The theme this year is “Honoring the Warsaw Ghetto: 70 Years Later.”
The service will focus on the revolt by the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto against the Nazis during World War II. Seventy years ago, the Nazis planned to liquidate the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis chose April 19, 1943 for their assault because it was the first day of Passover and they planned to destroy the Ghetto in time for Hitler’s birthday on April 20.
That morning of April 19, 1943 when the Nazis entered the Ghetto they were met with armed resistance and were forced to retreat. It took them several weeks to succeed in destroying the Ghetto as the Jews remaining in their continued to fight.
“This the 70th year commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising which was a pivotal event in Holocaust history.” said Jeff Rembrandt, assistant director of the Springfield JCC. “Last year we focused on people who helped the Jews. It was called “Profiles in Courage” and we focused on people who were rescuers and rescued. We are trying to find the positive lessons from the Holocaust. One positive lesson of the uprising in Warsaw Ghetto was that it was people taking a stand for themselves and for religious freedom.”
The Yom Hashoah commemoration at Sinai Temple will include stories, poems, and music that were written during the time of occupation in the Ghetto. The service will include the story of Janusz Korzcak, a famous Polish Jewish physician and writer, who kept an orphanage of Jewish children alive for many years after the Ghetto was created.
The memorial will also feature the presentation of a letter written by the leader of the revolt to a friend of his outside the Ghetto. The letter was written four days after the revolt began. It is the last written communication from Mordecai Anielewicz to his assistant, Yitzchak Tzuckerman. Anielewicz wrote, “I can only tell you that what has happened [thus far] exceeded our most courageous dreams. The Germans were forced to run from the Ghetto. Though the tasks ahead are enormous, I feel that what we have already done is a great achievement. The dream of my life has already been realized. I have had the good fortune to see Jewish self-defense in the Ghetto in its full glory and grandeur.”
Participants in the commemoration will include Rabbis Mark Shapiro, Max Davis, and Amy Katz and Cantor Martin Levson, who will lead the Adult Choir of Sinai Temple as well as Shir Fun, Sinai’s youth choir. The event will also feature a candle-lighting with readers from the Jewish community. This year, representatives from the Springfield Museum, which took over the operation of the exhibit of the former Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center, will be honored as Righteous Gentiles. They are: Guy McLain, Larissa Murray, and Amanda Goodheart.
The Yom Hashoah commemoration is sponsored by the Springfield Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts with support from the William and Lynn Foggle Fund for Holocaust Education and the Zachor Fund of the Jewish Endowment Foundation.
“One of the most clichéd things is when people say things like, ‘If we do not remember history, we are doomed to repeat it.’ But it is absolutely true,” Rembrandt said. “I think people are much quicker to step up to the plate when these things happen in other countries these days because of the lessons we have learned and because of commemorations like this. We need to keep teaching the next generations.”
Yom Hashoah in Holyoke
Yom Hashoah will also be commemorated in Holyoke on Thursday, April 11 at 6:45 p.m. at the New Holyoke Senior Center. The annual commemoration will feature the documentary, “Sousa: Make a Better World,” as well as an appearance by the filmmakers, and a performance by the Holyoke High School Madrigal Chorus.