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
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.