Ma’ayanot Commemorates Yom Hashoa

On Monday, April 24, Yom Hashoa was commemorated at Ma’ayanot with a candle lighting ceremony, tefillah, poetry readings, a choir performance, and a kumsitz in which many faculty members and students shared personal stories to honor survivors and remember family members who perished during the Holocaust. As they entered the Beit Knesset, students passed by murals that were decorated with names and photos of family members.

“The task of remembering is up to us,” the last generation to meet survivors and hear their stories in person, said Mrs. Suzanne Cohen, a teacher of Tanach. She told the story of a candyman in her shul who was a survivor. “We could see the numbers on his arm, but he wanted to transmit a positive message and make children happy and proud to carry on Jewish traditions,” she said. In addition to remembering the past, Mrs. Cohen encouraged students to stand up against hatred and intolerance and be a light unto the nations.

Rabbi Jay Goldmintz, a teacher of Jewish philosophy, shared a story about a visit to Poland that he once took with high school students. On a Friday afternoon, they learned that a Jewish man named Shimon Kluger, a survivor of Auschwitz and the last Jew to live in the town, had died and was about to be buried by the Poles. There were no Jews to bury him. Rabbi Goldmintz and the students took it upon themselves to oversee Mr. Kluger’s funeral and make sure that his name and memory would carry on.

Maya Stiefel, a sophomore, recited a poem that she wrote about her great-great-great aunt, Esther Klein, who survived Auschwitz and was interviewed for Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust archive. Atara Neugroschl, a junior, spoke eloquently about her grandfather’s survival despite the horrors he witnessed as a teenager.

The day concluded with a presentation by Mrs. Frida Hershkovits, a 90-year old survivor of Auschwitz who emigrated to Israel and the United States. She shared her story of survival, living in cramped barracks under deplorable conditions with little food. She answered students’ questions about her family and her faith after the war. She was one of three siblings of a family of 10 children from Czechoslovakia to survive. She shared family photos and pictures from two return trips to Auschwitz to bear witness. “My life is a miracle,” she said. “I believe God kept me alive to tell my story.”