Three men have been on my mind quite a bit in recent days.
Just weeks before everything shut down in 2020, we gathered to mourn the passing of Holocaust survivor Steve Ross, founder of the New England Holocaust Memorial. In the Fall of 2021, when so much of our world was still not back, we gathered again, this time to mourn Izzy Arbeiter, a force and a leader of the Boston survivor community. And then, last summer, via Zoom I attended the funeral of René Slotkin, one of the last surviving ‘Mengele Twins’, and a leader in the synagogue community in which I grew up.
I hadn’t seen René a lot in recent years. I missed some opportunities to say hello to him while visiting home. Yet I had the blessing of sitting with Steve and Izzy many times in their final years, as they told their experiences of the Holocaust to me. I was privileged to be with them as they bore witness to youth in Greater Boston, time and again.
I am thinking of them with a feeling of urgency in this moment, weeks before Yom HaShoah, the Jewish national day of commemoration of the Holocaust. Seventy-eight years after the liberation of the death camps, we are– sadly and bluntly– rapidly approaching the end of the age in which we will have living first-hand witnesses to those horrors. We are barreling towards the end of the era in which we are able, through our own actions, to assure those survivors who remain, that we will continue to bear witness on their behalf and never forget the crimes that were committed toward them and their families.
In that spirit, I invite you to two (of the many upcoming) gatherings in Boston in the coming weeks. These events are occurring at and in proximity to the New England Holocaust Memorial– to which we at JCRC are honored to serve as the provider of educational resources in partnership with the stewardship of the memorial by CJP.
On Sunday April 2nd at 10am, the Israeli-American Council, Boston 3G, and JCRC invite you the Six Million Steps march as we commemorate the six million martyrs who were murdered during the Holocaust. Every step you take from the Boston Common to the New England Holocaust Memorial will be tracked and eternalized on the 6MSteps.org website. Join the march and see how communities from around New England, the United States, and the world are joining together to say Never Forget and Never Again.
On Sunday April 16th at 2pm, JCRC and our partners invite you to the annual Community Holocaust Commemoration of Yom HaShoah, taking place in-person for the first time since 2019, at Faneuil Hall.
This year, the planning committee has selected the theme of ‘Remembering Our Past, Meeting this Moment, Ensuring our Future.’ Over the last year, we have seen hateful rhetoric against Jews and others espoused by celebrities and other influential people spreading wildly. Their comments are often rooted in conspiracy theories and stereotypes that date back thousands of years. The lessons from the Holocaust are important to combat this dangerous misinformation.
We will be joined by faith leaders from Greater Boston, and we will hear from local Holocaust survivor Jack Trompetter, who will share his story of survival during the Holocaust.
Jack was born in Amsterdam in August 1942 during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. When he was three months old, his parents made the decision to go into hiding and give him up to a Christian family to increase his chance at survival. He was not reunited with them until after the liberation at the age of three. He then immigrated to the United States in 1949, where he became a commercial artist, farmer, artisan, and Holocaust survivor speaker.
I hope that you, like me, will sense the urgency of this moment – to be present, to bear witness, and to become a bridge between the living survivors and the generations that will follow ours. And I ask that you act upon this urgency by joining me at these and at other gatherings in our community in the coming weeks. Let us mark Yom HaShoah together with our community’s survivors as we reaffirm our obligations to them.
As I think this week of Steve, Izzy, and René, I know that I, for one, don’t want to look back and say that I missed any more opportunities to fulfill this sacred obligation.
Thank you, and Shabbat Shalom.