On Sunday, April 23, the Dallas community came together at Temple Emanu-El to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and to honor those who survived.
The theme of Yom Hashoah 2017 was Jewish resistance. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, music, testimonies, and prayers were used to reinforce the message that Jewish resistance in the Holocaust must be remembered and honored in today’s time.
“We are here tonight in a society stricken with amnesia to remember,” began Rabbi David Stern, addressing a crowd of over 500 individuals in the Stern Chapel. “We are here tonight in a world which too often turns a deaf ear to the cry of the oppressed to listen. We are here in a culture which makes it easy to harden our hearts to the suffering of others, to open our hearts to their struggles. We are here to affirm that ‘never again’ means ‘never again’ to us, ‘never again’ to anyone.”
The powerful words “Never Again” are a reminder to all that the tragedy of the Holocaust must not happen again. However, these words have recently lost some of their effects as evidenced by the rise in hate speech and antisemitism across the nation, including Texas. When being a bystander to hatred seems like an easy path, we must stand up and remember those who resisted and fought for others in the face of unspeakable horrors and death.
Holocaust survivors sat in the first rows at the commemoration. Their strength and unrelenting faith serve as evidence to what humans can endure and overcome with enough hope and courage.
“Resistance of any kind during the Holocaust required great courage,” said Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins. “Today we remember and marvel at Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, the armed resistance in ghettos and death camps across Poland most notably the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Sonderkommando uprisings in the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and Sobibor.”
The Jews had everything taken away from them by the Nazis and their oppressors. Without family, food, weapons, or freedom, many refused to be completely dehumanized and stood up for themselves and others by participating in resistance activities.
To further speak on the theme of Jewish resistance, the testimonies of three Holocaust survivors who fought against Nazi oppression were read aloud by their respective children.
Mark Jacobs read the testimony of his father Mike Jacobs; Julie Meetal Berman read the testimony of her father Les Mittelman; Marsha Gaswirth read the testimony of her father Leon Bakst.
Following each testimony, a member of the Israeli Scouts joined a speaker to light two of the six white candles used to signify the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
The Honorable Florence Donald Shapiro, the Museum’s Chairman of the Board, ended the evening with a powerful message to all in attendance.
“The education the school students receive in the Museum, and how we honor our survivors, their lost loved ones, and the victims of the Holocaust, is through these stories, through this education. This is how we honor the children of the Holocaust: by educating the children of today. In the year 2017, this is how we continue our resistance.”
– Janet Montealvo Hitt, Marketing Coordinator, Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance