Holocaust Remembrance Day

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The community commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day had several emotional climaxes, none more moving when the daughter of Ruth Pagirsky, Regina Skyer, came on stage to help comfort the speaker paying tribute to her mother. Ruth, a member of Temple Beth, who recently passed away and the voice of the Holocaust in the Rockaways, made it her life's work to ensure this tragedy is never forgotten.

The May 1 event was held at Temple Beth El and was also sponsored by West End Temple, the Jewish War Veterans and the Rockaway Jewish community.

Following the singing of Ani Ma'amin, a song professing faith in the coming of the Messiah that has become associated with the Holocaust, was led by Cantor Jeffery Wolk and Cantor Dennis Waldman. The opening remarks were delivered by Rabbi Matt Carl of Temple Beth El and while Rabbi Rebecca Epstein of West End Temple was unable to attend due to COVID, her remarks were delivered by Cantor Gabriel Lehrman.

Steven Wagner then led the audience in the Hymn of the Partisans, a song that captures the mood of the resistance movements in Europe during World War II. Stuart Rauch of West End Temple provided musical accompaniment for the evening, while the teenagers of Temple Beth El: Zachary Finkelstein, Harrison Rosenhaus, Pauline Litvak and Rebecca Tarnarider served as the emcees as well as performers in a cantata, "Yizkor, Their Memory Lives On."

Six memorial candles were lit by local family members whose parents were Holocaust survivors. Presentations were given by Talia Berg, the great-granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and veterans whose grandparents are members of Congregation Ohav Zedek, Madison Lander of West End Temple, a teacher who spoke of a recent anti-Semetic incident in her school and Dr. Michael Goldberg, whose parents are members of Temple Beth El. Michael is a psychologist who spoke of his experiences with survivors and their families.

But the purpose of the evening was driven home as Michelle Neuringer, a soloist, began speaking about Ruth Pagirsky of blessed memory. In the days following her rescue, then known as Ruth Wachner, Ruth connected with an American Jewish soldier David Tanzman, whose daughter Robin Tanzman also spoke at the ceremony. Ruth's worldview following her liberation was that she would never marry or bring children into such a world.

 Fortunately, Ruth and David bonded and went on to have beautiful families and a quality of life. Seeing Michelle overcome by emotion in retelling Ruth's story, Ruth's daughter Regina joined everyone on stage, reinforcing the moment and showing that hatred did not win. Given the times we are living in, having the young people run the Holocaust program made the event both relevant and meaningful.

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