Yom Hashoah 2024: A solemn evening of remembrance and inspiration

by | May 30, 2024 | It's a Wrap, Other News

The 2024 Yom Hashoah Commemoration honoring the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, as well as liberators and righteous gentiles, brought the community together around awareness, sadness, honor, hope, and the understanding that each day it is possible to choose to do the right thing.

Temple Emanuel in Virginia Beach hosted the annual event on Sunday, May 5. The evening served as a poignant reminder of the atrocities of the past and the importance of community remembrance as “we strive to apply the lessons of the Holocaust for good,” said Gail Flax, Holocaust Commission chair, in her welcome to guests.

Chloe Zuckerman sang the American and Israeli national anthems and Rabbi Ari Oliszewski of Temple Emanuel delivered the D’var Torah.

Elie Wiesel Competition student art.
Elie Wiesel Competition student art.

Elie Wiesel Writing and Visual Arts Competition winners were honored during the ceremony. These students were challenged to examine the value of family artifacts and personal identity as they intersect with the Holocaust and their lives today. Winners came from multiple schools and states, including a few international winners.

Three educators who have dedicated their work to teaching about the Holocaust received the Commission’s Awards for Excellence in Holocaust Education. These individuals have played a crucial role in ensuring that the lessons of this dark chapter in history are never forgotten, and their efforts to inspire and inform students accurately will prove positive for the world.

The evening’s guest speaker, scholar and educator Robert Gillette, delivered a powerful speech on the importance of choice and positive actions. He emphasized the power of speaking up against injustice and hatred. His words resonated deeply with the attendees, underscoring the vital role each individual plays in shaping a more compassionate and inclusive society. The lighting of memorial candles followed Gillette’s talk. Six candles were lit to represent not only the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, but also the 1.5 million murdered children; the brave liberators; survivors who came to call Tidewater home; and educators who dedicate themselves to teaching the era’s lessons.

Cantor Jennifer Rueben of Ohef Sholom Temple sang the K’El Malei Rachamim memorial prayer, and Rabbis Rosalin Mandelberg of Ohef Sholom Temple and Michael Panitz of Temple Israel led the Kaddish for Shoah victims, infused with the names of some of the Nazis’ most notorious concentration camps. After the Kaddish, David Leon, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater president, closed the evening with a prayer for hostages being held by Hamas.

Attendees left with a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper appreciation for the power of individual voices and actions. The program served as a reminder that while the Holocaust was a tragedy of unimaginable proportions, its lessons continue to resonate, inspiring all to stand up against hatred, bigotry, and intolerance in all its forms.

Following the Yom Hashoah observance, the Elie Wiesel Visual Arts Competition exhibit was on display for two weeks in the Cardo at the Sandler Family Campus, providing an opportunity to engage with the powerful artistic expressions inspired by the Holocaust.

Lauren Goldman Barkan lights a candle.
Lauren Goldman Barkan lights a candle.