Sydney commemorates Yom Hashoah

April 30, 2019 by J-Wire
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This year’s theme for the Sydney Yom Hashoah Commemoration was “Memorials and Memories”. How do we keep history alive in our communities?

George Grojnowski, Dr Elizabeth Levy, Assoc Prof Richard Haber, Eugen Klein, Lena Goldstein, Lilly Berger

The Sydney Community held a number of functions to commemorate Yom Hashoah.

With the slow demise of our dear and cherished Holocaust survivors, how will we continue to remember the six million Jews murdered for who they were–and not for what was done to them? How to represent a tragedy that is characterized by absence, from the missing bodies to the destroyed gas chambers, the absence of names and archives? Memorials and monuments reflect, in part, the ways that communities and individuals have answered these questions. All around the globe, including here in Australia, people have built memorials to commemorate the Holocaust. Each tries to preserve the collective memory of the generation that built the memorial and to shape the memories of generations to come.


Leon Goltsman, George Foster, Dr Brendan Nelson, Daniel Hochberg and Lesli Berger.

Communal Commemorations were held at the Clancy Auditorium at the University of NSW and in the North at Masada. There was also an inaugural Youth Commemoration organised by Youth HEAR (HEAR stands for Holocaust Education and Commemoration). At the time of writing, it should be noted that the traditional commemoration at the Martyrs Memorial in Rookwood, is due to take place this coming Sunday 5that 10.30am.

With the addition of the Youth Commemoration, which attracted over 400 young people aged 18-25 years, and standing room only in the North and East, participation in Shoah Commemoration will be just over 2000 people! This is probably the largest number directly participating, in recent memory.

In addition, the Zachor Project of the NSWJBD, and sponsored by Woolworths, will see Shoah Commemoration kits (Which include a yizkor candle; a kadish prayer and the card of a victim murdered in the Holocaust) distributed to a further 3000 households through Synagogues, Jewish organisations and schools.

Walt Secord, Giovanni Farquer, Trevor Khan and Nadene Alhadeff.

The key note speaker for the Communal Commemorations was the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson. As the caretaker of one of the most important museums and memorials in the country, few people are better qualified to talk to the theme of Memorials and Memories. And Dr Nelson did not disappoint.

He said: “We gather 74th years after the arrival at Auschwitz of the Soviet forces from the 60th army of the First Ukrainian Front.

The liberators would find some 7,650 barely living survivors, hundreds of thousands of personal effects and 700 tonnes of human hair.

As many as 1.5 million people – mainly Jews, had been murdered here.

With awkward humility and abiding reverence, we gather here to reflect upon, remember and honour them all.

We do so in renewed commitment to one another, our nation and the ideals of mankind.

In commemorating the dead, we are inspired by the triumph of the human spirit given us by those who survived.”

At both Commemorations, he received a standing ovation. At times, he was visibly moved as he spoke to the audience of his respect for the Jewish Community, his compassion for the survivors, and the importance of commemoration, particularly in a world that is experiencing a resurgence of antisemitism and other hate crimes.

Ron Gerstenfeld Peter Wertheim, Dave Sharma, Vic Alhadeff and John Roth

In his introduction to Dr Nelson, NSW JBD Holocaust Commemoration Chair Danny Hochberg spoke of his families own experience of memorials, through the laying of Stolperstein, or stumbling blocks in memory of his grandparents, outside the residences where they once lived. NSWJBD Lesli Berger and CEO Vic Alhadef both spoke about the need for continued vigilance against the rising tide of antisemitism. In a moving gesture, President Lesli Berger called for a moments silence for those murdered in recent hate crimes including Pittsburgh, Christchurch and more recently Sri Lanka and San Diego.


Jackie Stricker-Phelps, Dr Kerryn Phelps MP, Lesli Berger, Kirsty Berger and

Ellie Zinsmeester lit a candle for the Righteous Among the Nations in honour of her parents, Willem Lodewijk Zinsmeester and Elisabeth Petronella Zinsmeester who hid Dutch Jews in their attic at great personal risk to themselves.

Six candles, representing the 6 million murdered were lit by survivors. In the East : George Grojnowski , Dr Elizabeth Levy , Eugen Klein , Assoc Prof Richard Haber, Lena Goldstein, Lilly Berger; and in the North: Judy and Peter Gyenes, Peter Nash, Kathrin Stein, Yola Schneider, Richard Wolf.

Zara Seidler, Gabi Stricker-Phelps, Lilly Wolf, Renee Perling Pinshaw and Jacqui Munro for Sydney.

The highlight of this year’s commemorations was the inaugural Youth Hear Commemoration. Sponsored and supported by the NSW JBD, The SJM and the Wakil Foundation, it attracted an unprecedented response for the Communities YouthYouth HEAR– co-founded by Jared Engelman, Julia Sussman, Harry Rosen, Jesse Lenn and Joel Grunstein – is dedicated to bridging an identified gap between Australian youth and the memory and awareness of the Shoah. They achieved this admirably on Sunday. As Hochberg said “Those of us who have been engaged in Shoah Commemoration are excited and proud of these young adults. Their talent, dedication and leadership bodes well for Shoah Commemoration, and indeed for our whole community”.

Harry Rosen represented them at the Communal Commemorations with a very strong presentation of his own personal journey to Shoah Commemoration activism, which was yet another highlight of the events.

The Communal Shoah Commemorations were organised by Hochberg and his Committee supported by NSW JBD staff member Suzanne Green and her team.

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