VIDEO: The Markin family lights the third candle at the Megillat Hashoah service.
About 500 people attended the service, which included a recitation of Megillat Hashoah (the Holocaust Scroll), a recently compiled book of English and Hebrew readings of brief, first-person experiences of the war.
Shelly Koren, left, and Talia Leibovitz were among those taking part
in the service at Beth Tikvah. Below, the Beth Tikvah choir. [Dave
Among the stories told in the scroll are that of a Christian journalist surveying the Warsaw Ghetto; of a young Jew forced to shove bodies into death camp ovens, and of a Jewish woman in a work camp.
The six chapters of the megillah were read by various community members and leaders, including Cantor Eli Kirshblum, Mona Brown, Harvey Haber, Cantor Marshall Loomer, Lou Cytrynbaum, David Schaeffer, Rabbi Howard Morrison, Sigal Tuch and Mitchell Goldenberg.
Two choirs performed songs between readings: the Beth Tikvah Synagogue Choir, directed by Eyal Bitton, with accompanist Nathan Rosen; and the Renanim Youth Singers, directed by Susan Michaels, with accompanist Mark Andrews. Songs included Eli, Eli, based on Psalm 22, and Even When God is Silent by Michael Horvit, written for the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
The song Bachuri Le’an Tisa, performed by the Renanim Youth Singers, was written by Gideon Klein in 1942 while he was interned at Terezin. Klein, who died in Terezin three years later at age 26, wrote about love and loss in the camps.
Six candles were lit to commemorate and memorialize different aspects of the Holocaust and related postwar events: a candle apiece for the memory of the six million, the destroyed Jewish communities, the 11/2 million murdered children, the ghetto fighters and partisans, the righteous of the nations, and the State of Israel.
Rabbi Wayne Allen, Beth Tikvah’s spiritual leader, said he hoped that the service would give survivors “strength for them to continue, and pay tribute to the martyrs who perhaps have no heirs.”
In 1992, Alex Eisen of Toronto, a survivor, suggested the idea of Yom HaShoah readings to Rabbi Philip Scheim of Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am Congregation. The Conservative movement subsequently embraced the effort to compile a service.
The Holocaust Scroll – written by Avigdor Shinan, a professor of Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along with an academic committee – was read for the first time publicly in 2003 on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The scroll was edited by Rabbi David Golinkin, president of the Schechter Institute, a Conservative seminary in Israel. In Toronto, a different Conservative synagogue takes turns hosting the event each year, Rabbi Allen said.
The practice of reading the scroll has spread through the world and takes place in many languages.
Aaron Jesin, who with his family and wife’s parents lit the second candle, said a religious commemoration of the Holocaust was long overdue.
“To a certain extent, the Megillat Hashoah fills this gap. Our only regret is that it is not universally embraced by all factions of Judaism.”
Jesin’s in-laws, the Weisbergs, and his parents, are survivors. Sam Weisberg was in the same concentration camp with Alex Eisen, and they remain close friends today, Jesin said.
Other participants in the candlelighting were the Frieberg, Markin, Pilc, Gottesman and Waldman families.
Beth Tikvah’s founding president, Harvey Haber, read aloud a portion of the scroll.
“The event profoundly impacted me,” he said. “We have survived through a fundamental belief in God. We must never lose hope. We have to persevere.”
He said such events are of particular importance today in light of increased ignorance about the Holocaust, and the growing problem of hatred.
“It’s not enough to say ‘Never again.’ The problem is that it is beginning to happen again. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. Anti-Israel sentiments are on the rise.”