Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony Honors Those Who Rescued Jews
A moving Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yeshiva University focused on an uncommon narrative of one of the darkest periods of human history—that of the rescuers.
The theme of the ceremony, organized by YU’s Student Holocaust Education Movement (SHEM), was “Remember the Future.” The Lamport Auditorium on the Wilf Campus overflowed with students who came to participate and hear personal testimony from survivor Sally Frishberg, a child of eight when her family was forced to flee their home in 1942, and the research of Dr. Eva Fogelman, the Pulitzer-nominated author of the book Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust, who was herself born in a displaced persons camp. Fogelman’s work studies the thought processes and actions of those who sheltered and provided assistance to Jews during the Holocaust.
“The rescuers did not change the course of history, but their behavior shows us that even under the worst conditions of terror, there are people who disobey a malevolent authority, there are people who risk their own lives and that of their family to save human beings,” Fogelman said.
Frishberg related how her family hid in different haystacks until a Polish Catholic farmer agreed to let them stay in his attic for two years. She lost two siblings and many other family members to starvation, sickness and Nazi brutality, but Frishberg emphasized the importance of sharing the stories of survivors.
“I was condemned to die at the age of eight and yet here I am,” she said. “Jews were meant to be eliminated from the world forever and yet here you are, and we are together. In spite of the heavy burden of memories that many of us bring with us, we will never give up and we will keep remembering because the future must know of the past.”
The night was replete with prayer and reflection. Rabbi Yosef Blau, senior mashgiach ruchani [spiritual advisor] at YU, recited a yizkor memorial service for the murdered masses and YU President Richard M. Joel intoned “Kel Maleh,” a prayer for the souls of the departed. Six candles were lit on stage in commemoration of murdered children, religious leaders and scholars, as well as those who risked their lives to help Jews and those who survived to live on with the pain of grief and loss.
The evening also featured an a cappella performance by the Yeshiva Maccabeats, who sang “Habeit” and “Kol Berama” and led students in a stirring rendition of “Hatikva” at the night’s conclusion.
“On this night we remember those who perished in the Holocaust and honor those few men and women who showed what impact individual actions can have,” said Israel Katz ’13SB, vice president of SHEM. “We will not forget the past. However, we hope to learn from it and from the lofty example set by these heroes, embedding in ourselves and in others the belief that we can affect change, one action at a time, to help forge a better future.”
The ceremony was co-sponsored by the Stern College for Women Student Council, the Torah Activities Council, the Yeshiva College Student Association, the Yeshiva Student Union, the Student Organization of Yeshiva, the Jewish Studies Council, the Syms Schools of Business Student Council and the Isaac Breuer College Student Council.