“I sat in the front row and had a beautiful view of the gorgeous Miss Massachusetts…I couldn’t help but be saddened by the thought of all the beauty and talent that was lost during the Holocaust as so well represented by the numbers edged in the glass towers standing behind her. The living and the dead – such a stark contrast!” --Holocaust survivor, Michael Gruenbaum
On May 1, 2011, as the life flowed out of one of modern history's most notorious leaders, half a world away 1000 people reflected on a different kind of darkness. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, the New England Holocaust Memorial, and 50 community sponsors organized and supported Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Commemoration Day. Centered on the theme, “Generations Remember: Our Promise,” we heard children and grandchildren of survivors speak about honoring memory, educating future generations, and advocating for a world free of genocide and oppression.
We listened as City Councilor Michael Ross spoke about the grandparents he’ll never meet. Miss Massachusetts Loren Galler Rabinowitz reflected on her grandmother who survived the Holocaust, only to die in Hurricane Katrina. We heard beautiful music from Miri Ben-Ari who learned to play the violin after her grandmother shared the story of a 9 year old girl whose hands were brutally cut off by a Nazi to ensure she would never again play the violin. And, we listened to protestors who metaphorically put an exclamation mark at the end of every sentence about vigilance and memory.
Many tears were shed and many people left saddened, but with a strengthened resolve. The obligation to remember those who perished and to continue talking in their honor is our responsibility.
As an educator, I was moved by the 400 students who listened quietly and reflected on a world where evil took control. At the conclusion of the event, the students followed Steven Ross, survivor of 10 camps and founder of the Memorial and Israel Arbeiter, President of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston, through the Memorial to place their hand painted river rocks. These rocks symbolized their feelings of loss, freedom, and hope and left a lasting impression. Janet Stein, a member of Generations After, commented that “the rocks are beautiful and thoughtful and symbolic of a death of an entire culture that called Europe home.”
Remembering the Holocaust is a commitment we take seriously. Days like Sunday help us focus those memories and give us an added sense of urgency. In a post-bin Laden world, we can hope for the best, but need to prepare for the worst.