For well over 30 years, the Holocaust Commemoration Committee of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Teaneck has annually honored the memory of the victims of the Shoah. Many of the original members of the Committee are children of survivors and see the annual commemoration as a personal as well as communal tribute to the kedoshim, the holy victims. Over the course of years, they have included their children and grandchildren in the ceremony, thus “passing the torch of memory” on to the next generations.
Marking the 80th anniversary of the Shoah, the upcoming commemoration will be held on Wednesday evening, May 1, at 7:30 p.m., in the auditorium of Teaneck High School. The evening is the culmination of many year-long activities of the Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee, currently chaired by Teaneck residents Amy Elfman and Felicia Grossman.
First and foremost, as the years pass, the identification of a speaker becomes more challenging as the number of survivors is fast dwindling. A special committee researches organizations of Holocaust survivors in search of candidates. This year’s speaker is Toby Levy, nee Tonchia Eisenstein. Born in Chodorow, Poland, in 1933, Toby and nine members of her family were hidden in a neighbor’s barn until they were liberated by the Red Army in 1944. They were among only 31 survivors of Chodorow and its environs. Levy, who resides in Brooklyn, has recounted her riveting story to audiences around the country.
In preparation for the evening, months are spent contacting the residents of Teaneck through their synagogues and personally, offering them an opportunity to memorialize their family members who died in the Shoah by submitting their names. On the evening of the event, these names appear in the memorial booklet and are read aloud at the program.
On the evening of May 1, at 6 p.m., prior to the commemoration, a dessert and musical reception will be held in the media room at Teaneck High School, adjacent to the auditorium. Survivor families are invited to meet and greet each other while enjoying a performance of Yiddish and Hebrew songs by local musician Yitzy Glicksman. In past years, this reception has proven to be a meaningful reunion for many of the local survivors and their families.
The commemoration will begin at 7:30 p.m., and as in the past, the auditorium will likely quickly fill up, with close to 1000 in attendance. Families with young children join survivors and their families in paying tribute to our lost communities. In addition to the inspirational presentation this year offered by Toby Levy, musical performances by artist Jonathan Rimberg as well as the Tzipporei Shalom, Congregation Beth Sholom’s Children’s Choir, will be presented. Rimberg will sing a medley of Yiddish songs, and Tzipporei Shalom, under the musical direction of Adina Avery Grossman and Cantor Ronit Wolff Hanan, will begin the program with the national anthems and a Yiddish hymn specifically prepared for the Yom Hashoah program.
A candle-lighting ceremony by six survivors and their families will be featured along with the reading of the family names of those who perished in the Shoah. Each year, a special committee searches far and wide for local survivors still with us, who are able and willing to mount the stage with the younger generations of their families. These six families are symbolic and representative of the six million children and adults who were murdered in the Shoah. This portion of the program is particularly emotional as the survivors are seen onstage, able to participate in the commemoration. The candle-lighting committee is currently seeking a few more survivors who are willing to participate as candle lighters in this year’s program. For more information and to participate, contact Jeanette Malca at [email protected]
The recitation of Tehillim will be led by Rabbi Kenneth Schiowitz, Rabbi of Congregation Shaare Tefilla. The concluding Kel Maleh in memory of those lost will be chanted by Rabbi Yosef Adler, Rabbi of Congregation Rinat Yisrael.
Local Jewish day schools are included in the event through art projects that commence at the beginning of the school year. This year, Frisch Yeshiva High School students, under the guidance and inspiration of art instructor Ahuva Mantell, created artwork revolving around the theme of the Shema prayer, which was uttered by the victims of the Shoah as they were undergoing the horrors inflicted upon them. The youngsters at Frisch created 15 highly emotional canvases, each from a unique and personal perspective, depicting the power of the words of the Shema. These artworks will be on display at the Teaneck Library during the month of May and will be transferred to the Bergenfield Library during the month of June.
The Committee is seeking scanned photos of survivors’ pre-war family or town/village that will be displayed at the program. Photos should be scanned at 300 dpi (dots per inch) and be cropped for best results. Please email all pictures to Steve Fox at [email protected]
The Holocaust Commemoration will take place on Wednesday evening, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the Teaneck High School auditorium. Teaneck High School is located at 100 Elizabeth Avenue, Teaneck, New Jersey. The entrance on Cranford Place, off Queen Anne Road, is handicapped accessible.
To RSVP for the dessert and musical reception for survivors and their families, call Annette Prager at 201-638-5621. Please leave your name, contact information and number of attendees.
To donate to the Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee, visit www.teaneckyomhashoa.org or mail your check to Sharon Penkower Kaplan at 534 S. Forest Drive, Teaneck, New Jersey 07666. The deadline for the inclusion of family names in the program is past, but funds to support the program are always welcome and appreciated.
For more information, contact Amy Elfman 917-576-7444 or [email protected]
By Pearl Markovitz