Last year I wrote about Dr. Robert Berger z’l, a Brookline Holocaust survivor, who had an immeasurable impact on our community and beyond. We were privileged to have him participate in our Yom HaShoah Committee, where he advocated passionately not only for the accurate portrayal of the horrific ordeal endured by Holocaust survivors, but also for teaching about the extraordinary ways in which they successfully rebuilt their lives and contributed so richly to our community .
This week, Dr. Berger’s life and legacy were featured on WBUR’s The Remembrance Project. His wife Pat spoke of his career as a pioneering cardiothoracic surgeon, whose lifetime of work included exposing the junk science and bogus results of the medical experiments performed by Nazis on Jewish concentration camp victims. His response to the death and destruction he witnessed was to dedicate his life to saving others, through his long and remarkable medical career.
This year, once again, we will feature the stories of local Holocaust survivors, as attendees at our annual Holocaust Commemoration hear firsthand survivor testimony. We are honored to feature Rabbi Joseph Polak, a cherished leader of Boston’s Jewish community, as the survivor speaker for the 2017 Commemoration.
Rabbi Polak was just an infant in 1945 when the Allied forces began to move across Europe. Before his first birthday, he was taken along with his family, first to one concentration camp, then another. He was nearly three years old when he and his family were liberated from Bergen-Belsen. Despite the unimaginable trauma he suffered in his early years, his story, along with those of other child survivors, went largely unacknowledged by the larger community. In his book, “After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring”, he writes poignantly about the pain that he and other child survivors experienced at the additional trauma of having their story of survival ignored and invalidated.
Rabbi Polak is the Emeritus Rabbi of the Florence & Chafetz Hillel House at Boston University, and the Chief Justice of the Rabbinical Court of Massachusetts.
I hope you will join us on Sunday, April 23rd to hear his story, honor the local survivors in our community, and pay tribute to the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust.