Congregation Beth Yam on Hilton Head Island will commemorate Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance, with three events May 2, 5 and 6, with Rabbi Brad Bloom officiating.
In Hebrew, the word “yom” means “day”; “shoah” translates as “catastrophe” or “utter destruction.”
This year, attendees will pause to remember our loved ones who were murdered and those who died trying to help. We will be reminded of the dangers of unchecked hatred and the atrocities committed by a government determined to systematically exterminate a minority.
We will honor, also, many acts of courage in the face of the unspeakable and the extraordinary will to survive. We remember, hoping it will never happen again.
At 6:30 p.m. May 2, survivor Henry Fenichel will share his experiences, initially as a hidden child, then his discovery and detention in a concentration camp. In an unusual turn of events, a rare prisoner exchange, he was relocated to Palestine.
At 1 p.m. May 5, the annual program will be held, with readings, poetry and music. Vera Hoffman, Savannah’s last Holocaust survivor, will be speaking about her life in Nazi occupied Hungary.
At 6:30 p.m. May 6, a docu-drama, “No Place on Earth,” will be shown. The film is about a large Jewish family of 38 in Ukraine, who hid in caves underground for more than 500 days. The film tells their story of survival in the near total darkness of two caves.
At these commemorations, I will think about my father, who barely escaped Berlin in December 1939. Visas had become hard to obtain.
He left the only home he knew, with an advanced engineering degree, one suitcase and a typewriter.
Inside the ribbon of the typewriter, his mother had concealed her most valuable possession, a necklace given to her by her husband on their wedding day. Knowing
the trip would be dangerous, she thought her son might need something for a bribe – or for money once he got to America.
Two Italian ocean liners, one French submarine, several diversions to land and six weeks later, Peter arrived in New York.
On Yom Hashoah, I will remember my grandmother, Hannah, who lived in Berlin with her husband and son. I will remember her ingenuity, courage and will to save her only son. Sometime in 1942, she was rounded up and sent to her death in Auschwitz.
On Yom Hashoah, I will wear her necklace. We will hear stories of survival, courage, spirit and the strength to bear witness.
Congregation Beth Yam is located at 4501 Meeting Street on Hilton Head Island. For more information, call 843-689-2178.
Barbara Meyer is a member of and handles publicity for Congregation Beth Yam.