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Our holocaust MEMORIAL 

Over many years, a dedicated group of synagogue members, led by Dr. Sonia Ancoli Israel, worked to create a Holocaust Memorial on our campus. That memorial is now a beautiful mosaic reality installed on the northern wall of the Turk Family Plaza.

On May 2, 2019 our synagogue community dedicated this Holocaust Memorial Wall. View a video description of our Shoah Memorial here. If you would like to contribute in support of this Holocaust Memorial project, please go to https://www.cbe.org/payment.php or call the office at 858-452-1734.

We also continue to collect the names from Congregation Beth El member families who wish to honor the lives of their loved ones who died in the Holocaust, or those who survived or are the descendants of survivors through the second, third generation, or fourth generations.

holocaust memorial dedication remarks

Delivered by Rabbi Ron Shulman:
 
In 2018 there were 1,879 acts of anti-Semitism in the United States. 249 of them carried out by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other like-minded extremists. It’s an upsetting statistic. We take notice. We are not afraid. We must be aware.
 
I learn this attitude from the many Holocaust survivors I have been privileged to know. Their lives and their legacies urge us. It is crucial that we remember and teach. It is critical that we protect and defend. But, it is also vital that our communal dialogue not be about hate and security.
 
We must speak together and to others about dignity and goodness. We are not Jewish because they hate us. We are Jewish because we love the Eternal our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our might.
 
Our cherished survivors came through much more than the cruelty and inhumanity of World War II. They survived and live true to the values and sensibilities of their natures. It is simply an amazing testimony to all survivors, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, that their post war lives embrace genuine goodness and purpose in response to unparalleled evil.
 
Recognizing this, standing before this Holocaust Memorial Wall, I am concerned. We cannot ever let go of the survivor generation’s courage and resilience, or their commitment to life and goodness. From so many different walks of life, survivors tell us about the power and promise of redemption. We cannot ever let this go.
 
Ours is a time and moment when we require people of character around us. We need people who knowing the truth about human nature’s horror and beauty can teach the rest of us how to build personal lives of love, hope, and achievement.
 
At this commemoration of Yom HaShoah, I ask you. Where do the character and resilience demonstrated by so many survivors come from? How do we give our children today, raised and living in a completely different circumstance, the gift of identifying and promoting goodness in their lives?
 
Goodness must become what we expect. A goal we strive to achieve for all people. Being good is a commitment that takes root in a person’s mind, heart, and soul. Just as I said before. We are Jewish because we love the Eternal our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our might.
 
Survivors respond to unspeakable evil, consciously or sub-consciously, by urging us to do good. Memory of the Holocaust demands we build the world those who perished didn’t know. We best remember the Shoah through awareness of life’s gifts and intensely holding to life’s blessings. We best honor the memories of those whom the Nazi’s murdered by demonstrating the courage and character of our best convictions.
 
Fortunate today to live in relative comfort, and somewhat self-absorbed, I ask us to consider. What gives our children and us the will to strive toward dignity and goodness?
 
My hope for this poignant Holocaust Memorial Wall is that our seeing it and understanding it inspires us to answer this question. I pray this memorial help us to remember, to teach, and to speak together and to others about dignity and goodness.
 
Goodness is a choice. A choice we must make repeatedly, constantly, as we consciously move from moment to moment, situation to situation. Here and now, we must choose to forge a better world than the one in which all those whom we remember this evening lost their lives.
 
We can wallow in the depths of human cruelty and shake our heads in despair as we monitor current events that continually demonstrate inhumanity and sow fear. We can talk about hate and security.
 
Or, like the survivors we cherish and the message of this beautiful Holocaust Memorial Wall, we can reject history’s pattern and with all of our hearts, souls, and might affirm the possibility and necessity of goodness for ourselves, for our families, and for our world. For in life, truly, this the only way any one of us survives and thrives.
 
 

background and reflections

Delivered by Dr Sonia Ancoli Israel, past president of Congregation Beth El and Chairperson of the Holocaust Memorial Committee:
 
I am a second generation. My parents, Esther and Nissan Ancoli of blessed memory, were survivors. My parents had amazing stories of luck, of miracles, of chutzpah, of strength and of love that enabled survival. My grandparents and uncle and many others in our family were not so lucky and were murdered in the streets, in the camps, and in places we don’t even know.
 
Holocaust Survivors. This title, these words, heard and read over the last 70 years, is taking on new meaning today, as these heroes are dying, as their chance to tell their stories and to insure that we do remember, is getting more and more rare. Now it is up to us, Second generation, third generation, fourth, and now even fifth generation. Now it is up to all of us.
 
And so, seven years ago, when I took over as President of Beth El, I became devoted to building a Holocaust Memorial on our campus – a memorial to all those who were lost. I wanted recognition of the horror of the past, combined with a promise of a decent and fair and humane future for us, always.
 
I wanted this memorial to educate our children and ourselves, so that we, and everyone else, in fact, Never Forget. I wanted to create a memorial of hope, of beauty that would be a lasting tribute to the men and the women and the children who did not survive. Especially the children, because I believe that it is with children that the hope for the future lies.
 
We all believe in our children. But for me, saving children, remembering children, honoring children takes on special meaning.
 
My mother, born Esther Bekin, was from Radvilishkes, Lithuania. In the early days, right after the end of the war, a war she managed to survive, she lived in Vilna. One day, there was a knock on the door, and a young man stood there with a telegram. It read that the Brecha, the Jewish underground, had heard she could be trusted and enlisted her help to smuggle children out of Lithuania into Poland, from where they could more freely be sent to what was then Palestine. The word spread and young survivors from all over Lithuania appeared at her door. Her job was to make false papers for the children and to bribe people to get trucks, and once a week, in the middle of the night, in the darkness, she would send 3 truckloads of children across the border and to freedom.
 
One night they were betrayed and the trucks were caught. My mother never knew who survived and who was murdered on that night of betrayal. But that story is not over.
 
Fast forward sixty years to February 2004. My mother is wintering in Florida, as New Yorkers were apt to do, and is invited to a social gathering for survivors from Lithuania. Someone points out a woman recently arrived from Israel, and my mother, always being the most friendly welcoming person, goes over to say hello.
 
The woman, Gila, tells my mother that she arrived in Israel from Lithuania only in 1976. “Why so late?” my mother asked. Gila replied, “I tried to get there once through the Bracha, in Vilna, in January 1946. But the truck I was on was caught and we were sent to Siberia.” My mother stood there just staring at her. And then she whispered, “I was in the Bracha in Vilna in 1946.” “No,” Gila replied. “I only knew one person there. Her name was Esther Bekin.” Esther Bekin. My mother gasped – “I’m Esther Bekin. I’m Esther Bekin. And I am so sorry that because of me you ended up in Siberia.” “No,” Gila replied as they hugged. “It is because of you that I am alive. “
 
Saving children. Remembering Children. Honoring children.
 
For several years now, I would walk past this empty wall and stare at it, imagining what it would look like with the memorial I hoped to build. The Congregation Beth El Holocaust Memorial. My committee worked hard to find just the right design for our campus, and we were fortunate to collaborate with Cheryl Rattner Price of the Butterfly Project, and Helen Segal, artist extraordinaire. And from that collaboration, this memorial was born. Thanks to so many of you, we were able to raise just about all of the funds needed and now, here we are.
 
We were able to include you in the making of the memorial. You painted butterflies which are now behind me on this wall. Each butterfly was painted in memory of a child murdered. These butterflies help meet the goal of 1.5 million butterflies representing the 1.5 children killed in the Holocaust. I painted my butterfly – there it is – in memory of my Uncle Shmuel, of blessed memory, my mother’s older brother who was shot on the streets of Radvilishkes, Lithuania at the start of the war. You will hear more about the butterflies and the Butterfly Project shortly from Cheryl Rattner Price. But, as you will hear shortly from Helen Segal, our memorial represents much more than just the children.
 
Just last week, as Helen and I, with the help of Joan, Helen’s friend, and Andy, my husband, were throwing each of these rocks that you see on the ground behind me, I was reminded of our past, of our history. I thought about the slave labor our ancestors were forced into. We just celebrated Pesach and repeated our story of slavery to freedom. I was reminded of how Krystalnacht began with rocks being thrown at Jewish windows. And I felt my history, our history in every sore muscle as I threw rock after rock after rock - 4 tons of rocks! But this time, this time the rocks were going into a memorial to remember and honor each of those souls.
 
Our plans are not finished. We are still raising funds. There will be a “garden” of leaves planted on posts around the memorial with the names of those family members who perished and those family members or friends we wish to honor. The details, including the cost of the leaves, are still being determined and we will let you all know as soon as we know.
 
There are many people to thank, and I have listed them in your program. Rather than repeating them, I encourage you to read their names. Without each and every one of them, and each and every one of you, this dream of mine, this memorial in front of which we stand, would never have happened.
 
Wed, September 18 2019 18 Elul 5779