Honor, Respect, and Remembrance at Chhange’s Yom HaShoah Commemoration

Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah is Hebrew for “Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day.” This title, often shortened to Yom HaShoah, encapsulates both the heroism of the Jews and the tragic dehumanization they faced during their twelve years of persecution and murder by Germans and their collaborators. During the Holocaust, two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe was annihilated, including 1.5 million children. The Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education (Chhange) marked the 2018 commemoration of Yom HaShoah with an educational, inspirational, and empowering message: remember the past and stand up against hate in today’s world to effect positive change in the lives of others.  

Dr. Peter Hayes, world-renowned Professor of History and German at Northwestern University, delivered a memorable keynote address in which he focused on answering questions posed in his new book, Why?: Explaining the Holocaust. Dr. Hayes described several factors which set the stage for Jews to become the ultimate victimized group in WWII. He elaborated on the minimal, and very delayed world response. By spring 1942, the Red Cross, the Vatican, and the United States government were all aware of the continuing mass murder of Jews, but their priorities did not include saving Jews or the other victims targeted during the Holocaust.

Chhange’s Yom HaShoah Commemoration was sponsored, in part, by the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey. CEO Keith Krivitsky reminded the audience about the importance of Holocaust remembrance and education, especially in light of the rising number of hate crimes in New Jersey and throughout the country. Dr. David Stout, Interim President of Brookdale Community College, also offered remarks. Dr. Stout focused on the New York Times article released this week, “Holocaust Is Fading From Memory, Survey Finds,”  reviewing findings of a recent survey undertaken by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, which indicates 41% of Americans and 66% of millennials do not know what Auschwitz is. In our community, Dr. Stout explained, Chhange works to ensure that students and educators have accessible and accurate resources for Holocaust and genocide education, so that we will never forget the Holocaust and its lessons. Jewish war veterans from Jersey Shore Post 125 and the Monmouth-Ocean County Council of Jewish War Veterans, also attended and co-sponsored this event.

Following Dr. Hayes’ presentation,  the Marlboro High School Choir performed several poignant songs of remembrance, including “Ani Ma’amin,” a song of Judaism’s thirteen articles of faith. This stirring melody, beautifully sung by Marlboro High School students, set the tone for a candle-lighting ceremony that included fourteen local Holocaust Survivors. Many of these survivors are featured in Chhange’s new exhibit Journeys Beyond Genocide: The Human Experience. Holocaust Survivors were escorted by members of the Naval Weapons Station Earle. Eva Wiener, Holocaust Survivor, and Mimi Werbler, daughter of Holocaust survivors, narrated the candle-lighting ceremony.

April is Genocide Awareness month and includes Kwibuka, the commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Yom HaShoah, and the Armenian Genocide Remembrance. On Thursday, April 19th, Chhange is hosting an Armenian Genocide Commemoration featuring a presentation by Dr. Taner Akҫam on his new book Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and the Armenian Genocide, followed by a book signing. This commemoration is free of charge, but please register for this event at www.chhange.org. For more information about genocide commemoration or about Chhange’s new exhibit Journeys Beyond Genocide: The Human Experience, please contact Chhange at contact@chhange.org or 732-224-1889 or visit www.chhange.org.

Chhange educates, inspires, and empowers individuals to stand up to injustice.