More than 800 people gathered to honor the survivors of the Holocaust and remember those who perished in it at Cleveland’s annual Yom Hashoah V’Hagvurah commemoration May 4 at Green Road Synagogue in Beachwood.
Sean Martin, assistant curator for Jewish history at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, said in his keynote speech that the importance of the event lies in its focus on the local Jewish community.
“By recognizing the experiences of our family members, friends and neighbors, we do more than just confirm our interest in what they experienced,” he said. “We acknowledge their effect on our own lives, on our home here in the United States.
“While the Holocaust happened far from the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland knew something of what was happening as the events we recognize today as the Holocaust unfolded.”
Martin also discussed the history of Green Road Synagogue, which evolved from the Marmaresh region of Hungary and was built by Holocaust survivors as a memorial to their family members and other Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.
“Out of the Darkness: Into a New Life” was the theme of the program, co-sponsored by the Kol Israel Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.
Rabbi Melvin Granatstein, rabbi emeritus of Green Road Synagogue who offered welcoming remarks, said today as Jews, “we face a whole new type of Holocaust revisionism.”
“Tonight we stand in solidarity with Jews all over the world and to express solidarity with others worldwide who have had to face murderous hostility,” he said.
Anne Lukas, president of the Kol Israel Foundation, offered remarks on behalf of the foundation, which she said is dedicated to keeping alive the memory and the lessons of the Holocaust. Leo Silberman, chair of the Kol Israel Foundation, also spoke.
Six Holocaust survivors who live in Greater Cleveland lit memorial candles to remember those who died, while family members told their stories. They included Ellis Lewin, Mike Frum, Esther Muencz and brothers Al Hersh and Ted Hersh. Rita Pollack, also a Holocaust survivor, lit a candle for her cousin, Sarah Radzelli, whose story was told but was unable to attend.
A seventh candle was lit by World War II veteran Joe DeLuca, a liberator who served in the U.S. Army.
Winners of the Creative Arts Contest, for which students were invited to create original written and visual arts pieces to incorporate this year’s theme, were recognized.
The two first-place winners in the creative writing contest read their entries. They were Jane Rader, a junior at James A. Garfield High School in Garrettsville, who repeated as the winner in the high school division, and Shira Rosenberg, a sixth-grader at the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School in Beachwood, who placed first in the middle school category.
Jordan B. Gorfinkel and the Shema Koleinu singers accompanied Cantor Larry Josefovitz on “Song of the Partisans” and then performed “L’ma’ancha.”
Josefovitz, former cantor at The Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike who is retired, led the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem. He also sang “El Malei Rachamim,” a memorial prayer.
Granatstein led the recitation of the kaddish (mourner’s prayer).
Children from local youth groups and schools, accompanied by violinist Steven Greenman, participated in a March of the Generations to signify that Jewish life continues after the Holocaust.