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HEWs 30th anniversary dedicated to survivors

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TORONTO — The 30th anniversary of the Holocaust Education Week (HEW) is being dedicated to the survivors who have established and programmed it.

Mira Goldfarb [Michael Rajzman photo]

Mira Goldfarb, the new executive director of the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, part of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, said that the majority of programs in the week-long event, running Nov. 1 through 9, will feature survivors’ testimony.

“This is the first time we’ve established a singular comprehensive theme to the entire week,” she said.

On the job for eight months, Goldfarb said that when she arrived, she immediately saw the opportunity to introduce a special theme to the annual program.

“We have to recognize survivors for their suffering and for their survival. They have become major contributors to society. That is a lesson for us, because it underscores how much loss of potential the Holocaust actually represents. How much more could have been contributed?”

Goldfarb, a curator who began her career at the Jewish Museum in New York City, said that in 30 years, HEW has grown from a community-focused and generated event to a forum for international scholars and presenters. “It began 30 years ago with 30 programs, and by 1999 it featured 100 programs. Last year, about 30,000 people attended 140 programs.

“This year, we’re expecting representatives from most of the major centres of excellence in Holocaust education in the world.”

Goldfarb said that it was a “tremendous honour and privilege” for her to take on her job. “I embrace the role because I recognize that it is my generation that carries the torch.

“My children’s generation will be the last to have direct encounters with Holocaust survivors. We have to instil in them the charge to preserve these legacies and make them relevant and inspiring to future generations.”

The task goes beyond preserving memories, she said. “It is about ensuring that bearing witness translates into taking action, and being responsible for the cries of ‘Never again’ that have been cried out.”

Fred Winegust, who was part of the original Holocaust education committee, said the idea was to have a week of education about six months after Yom Hashoah, “so there would be a commemoration every six months.”

He was inspired to become involved in Holocaust remembrance after returning from the first gathering of Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem in 1981 as a reporter for a university newspaper.

“My father was a survivor, my mother was a hidden child in France, and my grandfather was a prisoner of war, so I am part of the ‘second generation.’”

Eleanor Getzler, who has also been involved in HEW since the beginning, is also part of the second generation. “Growing up in Bathurst Manor, the Holocaust was a heavy part of my life.”

Reading the book, Children of the Holocaust, however, “really opened my eyes,” she said. “Reading the stories of these children was an awakening. We never discussed these things at home.”

She said that that book planted a seed in her mind about seeing some programming that revolved around the Holocaust.

“I spoke to Rabbi Mark Shapiro, assistant rabbi of Holy Blossom Temple, and a committee was struck. We wanted to educate the public, because nothing like that had been done before.”

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