The 2023 Elsie Adler Yom HaShoah Program

by Caryn Roman
Acting Director of Lifelong Learning

 

“Not to transmit an experience is to betray it.”
– Elie Wiesel, z”l, Holocaust survivor, political activist, Nobel laureate and teacher

 

The obligation to remember the Holocaust and its victims is so much a part of modern Jewish life that the philosopher Rabbi Dr. Emile Fackenheim suggested it be considered the “614th commandment,” referring to the traditional 613 mitzvot outlined in Torah. At Emanu-El, our Religious School students and families honor that commitment each spring at the Elsie Adler Memorial Holocaust Remembrance Program.

Elsie Adler (z”l) was a beloved and dedicated member of the Emanu-El community, who herself escaped from Nazi Germany as a child. She was passionate about preserving the memory of the Holocaust and educating younger generations to better understand, appreciate and learn from one of the darkest periods in Jewish history. Her generosity to the Temple allowed for the creation of annual programming in this vein, geared specifically toward 10-to-16-year-olds and their parents.

On April 16 and 17, 2023, 5th through 10th grade students, parents and faculty had the opportunity to hear testimony from Holocaust survivor Martin Bloch. Martin was born in Ivje, Poland. The Nazis murdered his father in the early years of the war and Martin, his mother and older brother were forced into the local ghetto in Belarus. They escaped from the ghetto and, for a short time, they hid with non-Jews in a nearby forest before joining the Bielski brothers, a Jewish partisan group. When the war ended in 1945, they went to the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp where they were forced to remain for seven years before immigrating to New York in 1952. Mr. Bloch eventually attended City College of New York and founded Frequency Electronics Incorporated, an aerospace engineering firm.

Following Mr. Bloch’s presentation and a Q & A period, students and their families proceeded to Blumenthal Hall for an interactive ritual service marking Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, that included opportunities for personal reflection and small-group discussion.

Click here to download a copy of the service

Click here and here to read reflections from students, parents and faculty submitted during the service.

Before leaving, participants were offered multiple ways of continuing to commemorate the Holocaust and its victims and survivors at home and in the future, and were encouraged to find ways to share what they’d learned with others outside of Religious School. Many students chose to take memorial candles and affix labels with the name of a child who perished in the Holocaust, in order to light the candle at home for Yom Hashoah in that child’s memory. Others read about Norwegian educators’ resistance to Nazi ideology during World War II and took paperclips to emulate and honor their strength.

As part of the last generation of people who will have the benefit of hearing testimony about the Holocaust from living survivors, the entire Lifelong Learning community at Temple Emanu-El is grateful to Mr. Bloch, Rabbis Ehrlich and Sapadin, and all others who planned and participated in this year’s programs.

Finding Our Place at Temple Emanu-El

Adapted from Lauren Bernstein’s speech at the Gather Shabbat Evening Service March 24, 2023

My husband Jon and I moved into the area in January of 2020 while I was pregnant with our son. Jon went to Hebrew school at Temple Emanu-El and was Bar Mitzvah’d here, so moving back uptown was a bit of a homecoming. We were excited to settle into the neighborhood and join the temple. The pandemic had some other plans, and we spent our first few months tracking down hand sanitizer and settling into newborn parent life. We finally joined Temple Emanu-El later that year in Fall 2020.

As soon as we joined, we immediately wished we had done so sooner. We could not believe how quickly Temple Emanu-El welcomed us into the community. At a time when just about all social interactions were done over Zoom, we found that the temple had a lot to offer in the way of social connectivity, particularly for two sleep-deprived, new parents.  Before long, we were attending virtual Young Member programs pretty consistently, where we met several people. Doing so exposed us to the Emanu-El’s Gather groups.

“One thing that is really great about belonging to a congregation of this size and with so much diversity is the ability to find common ground and interest in almost anything.” 

Jon and I soon joined both a Young Professionals Gather and a TV Watching Gather.  Through the Gather programs, we made some very close friends, some of whom are in this room right now.  And joining Gather opened our eyes to new opportunities at the temple — specifically the toddler program that met twice a week in 2021-2022.

Seeing how our son thrived at the temple, particularly with kids who are now some of his closest friends, it only made sense to become involved in Gather Family.

Gather Family has been a fantastic way to get to know member families with similarly aged kids. Thus far, we have done a number of local activities with the children, including visiting the Central Park Zoo, going to the SlooMoo Institute, and checking out the Alice in Wonderland Dreams exhibit. And while it is Gather Family, we’ve also ditched the kids and have gone out with just the parents, which has been a great way for us to connect and foster new friendships.

One thing that is really great about belonging to a congregation of this size and with so much diversity is the ability to find common ground and interest in almost anything.  And as someone with a “COVID baby,” having a community within the temple of people going through similar experiences has been both a pleasure and a stress reliever.  In addition to just having a group to attend events and exhibits with the kids, it’s also a community where we can talk about the challenges and stresses of parenting generally, and specifically to raising children born during this unique period.

And it’s been wonderful for our son as well. He loves attending temple events, and in the fall, he will be attending Temple Emanu-El Nursery School, together with two other children in our Gather Family group. We are incredibly grateful to the congregation and the clergy at Emanuel for giving us the tools to foster and grow these relationships.

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Mourning with Monterey Park

 

Dear Friends,

We awoke this morning to the horrific news of the shooting deaths of at least ten and the injury of at least ten more during the celebration of the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, a predominantly and historically Asian American community, with a sizable Latino and Hispanic population, too.

While no motivation has yet been determined for the massacre, we do not need one to feel deeply saddened for this community, or to once again acknowledge the deadly result of hate mixed with guns.

We know this tragedy comes amidst an increase in incidents of hate directed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders around the country. We have seen the images on the evening news of our fellow citizens beaten and bruised and shoved to the ground.

Our hearts reach out to the wounded and the bereaved, and to all who are living in fear. But we must do more. As we walk the streets of our own city, let us keep our eyes open to what is going on around us, and be prepared to assist if possible, and certainly to report. The Jewish people knows too well the experience of being targeted for violent attack.

Last week, on Martin Luther King Day, we reaffirmed our commitment to fighting all forms of bigotry and prejudice. There is no room for it in the world Dr. King hoped to create. May that world come soon.

 


Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson

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