Kol Israel’s 58th annual fall memorial will be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at Zion Memorial Park in Bedford Heights.
The event honors the memory of the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who lost their lives by the hands of Nazis.
Kol Israel was founded in 1959 to unite the men and women who survived the Holocaust and later relocated to Cleveland.
For the most part, the survivors and Kol Israel founders, didn’t know where their family members’ final resting places were, “because they were in the gas chambers, they were buried in pits, they were all over the place,” said Kol Israel Executive Director Hallie Duchon. “They said, ‘We need to build a memorial.’”
So, in 1960, the organizition created plans to build a monument in memory of the 6 million victims and was gifted land reserved for 250 grave sites by Zion Memorial Park. Built by Kotecki Family Memorials, the monument was unveiled the following year.
“Underneath the memorial, (there) are little coffins filled with ashes and bones and artifacts from the concentration camp,” said Duchon, noting, “Some of the survivors actually went back to Europe ... and filled up these coffins and they brought them back.”
Every year between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Kol Israel holds a memorial service at the monument.
“It’s usually a very big event,” Duchon said. “We have over 300 people attending every year, including city officials. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, our Holocaust survivor population has declined significantly, but those who are still around and able to get there (come).”
Each year, there is a candle-lighting ceremony where six candles are lit to honor Holocaust survivors, liberators, and the Righteous Among the Nations.
The candles are lit by children and grandchildren of departed survivors. This year, Julian Kahan, Rita Pollack, Lee and Harry Lerer, Sarah Radzeli, Rose Gelbart and Lou Muller will have the honor.
“It’s a beautiful place for people to go to say a prayer for those that perished in the Holocaust,” Duchon said.
In 2017, the monument received an Ohio Historical Marker. About 50 new markers are completed each year.
Proceeds from the event will be used to enhance Kol Israel’s Holocaust educations programs, Face to Face and Sharing Our Stories.