Yom HaShoah in Perth

April 12, 2021 by  
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At Perth’s Yom Hashoah commemoration last week, a symbol of the Jewish people’s regeneration as young Jewish West Australian Aaron Levine, sang the Partisans’ Song in Yiddish to the 350 strong audience.

Senator Ben Small Rabbi Adi Cohen, Joan Hillman (President of the JCCWA) Senator Dean Smith

It was a moving experience, part of a thought-provoking evening of remembrance jointly hosted by the Holocaust Institute of WA and the Jewish Community Council of WA.

Following an opening address by Joan Hillman, President of JCCWA, prayers were led by Rabbi Adi Cohen and Holocaust Survivor Harry Hoffman. We were then guided through the evening by Dr Gavin Chapeikin whose introduction provided some historical context to those events of eighty years ago which our honoured Holocaust survivor guests remember all too well.

Jonny Daniels, grandson of Holocaust survivors, founder of the outreach program ‘ From the Depths’ appeared via video from the last remaining wall of the Warsaw Ghetto. Jonny’s purpose is to preserve the past to shape the future. To do this he researches and reveals the stories of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. Not only the camp revolts and partisan activity but also the heroic acts of Jews continuing Jewish life and culture in the face of Nazi persecution and the constant threat of death, when remaining alive was truly a victory. He also urged us to remember those courageous non – Jews who helped Jews survive during those horrendous times when two-thirds of Europe’s Jews were murdered.

The almost incredible Survivor Testimony this year was dramatically recounted by Ilana Klevansky on behalf of her mother Henny Hittner (Kagan) and her sister, Ilana’s aunt Risa Silbert (Kagan), who was in the audience. Living in Lithuania when the Nazis invaded in June 1941, Henny and Risa’s father and their elder brother Hessel were murdered while Henny, Risa and their mother were deported. The tale of deprivation, separation, slave labour, the sisters’ amazing reunion at Stuttof concentration camp, forced marches at the end of the war as the SS were abandoning the camps and courageous survival and then rescue by British forces would be the stuff of a novel if they were not actual events. To hear of the sisters’ unquenchable desire and will to live in spite of the terror they faced was beyond inspirational. Only around 40,000 Jews were still alive in ghettos and camps by the end of 1941 out of a Lithuanian Jewish population of 250,000, killed by the Nazis and their Lithuanian auxiliaries.

This year, as part of the Holocaust memorial project ‘ Unto Every Person There Is A Name’ each member of the audience was given a candle and the name of a Holocaust victim so that we could later light a candle in their memory.

As always we thank Carmel School for the use of the Sylvia and Harry Hoffman Hall . Grateful thanks are also due to all the participants and to the organizers of the event from the Holocaust Institute of WA, who developed and prepared the program for the night.

Report from David Denver Vice – president JCCWA

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