Child Survivor Tova Friedman to Keynote Memphis Jewish Federation’s 61st Annual Yom HaShoah Commemoration

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Memphis Jewish Federation’s 61st annual Yom HaShoah Commemoration will be held Monday, April 17, 2023, at 6:30 P.M. in the Memphis Jewish Community Center Belz Social Hall. Open to the entire community, advance registration is required and can be found at www.jcpmemphis.org/yomhashoah.

Dorothy Kelman Goldwin and Michelle Goldwin Kaufman, Co-Chairs of Federation’s Holocaust Memorial Committee, are honored to announce Tova Friedman as the keynote speaker. One of the youngest child survivors of Auschwitz, Tova is also author of a memoir, The Daughter of Auschwitz. Tova Friedman’s visit to Memphis is sponsored by the Tennessee Holocaust Commission.

“Getting to know Tova over the past few months has been a true blessing,” said Mrs. Goldwin. “She is a dynamic, bright, uplifting person who recognizes the responsibility she carries as one of the few living survivors of Auschwitz to keep telling her story to people around the world. We hope community members of all ages will come together to learn from and be inspired by her on April 17th.”  

Memphis Jewish Federation’s annual Yom HaShoah commemoration honors Holocaust survivors living among us, pays tribute to those we have lost, and transmits the legacy of the Holocaust to the next generation. This year’s program will include the traditional candle lighting ceremony by survivors and second and third generation, a musical reflection by Memphis Symphony Orchestra Assistant Principal First Violinist Diane Zelickman Cohen, the El Maleh Rachamim memorial prayer led by Baron Hirsch Congregation’s Cantor Ricky Kampf and psalms and Kaddish led by David Winestone, Shelby Baum, and Rebecca Gerber in memory of their father, Ted Winestone, of blessed memory.

Temple Israel’s Music and Cantorial Director, Emily Groff Heilborn and Music and Education Specialist, Carly Abramson, along with Temple teens, Sami Bray, Sarah Hochman and Hannah Moore will open the program with the national anthem. Cantor Aryeh Samberg and Rabbi Cantor David Julian of Or Chadash will close it with Hatikvah. The closing benediction will be offered by Rabbi Akiva Males of Young Israel of Memphis.

Tova Friedman is noted to be among one of the youngest people to survive the Holocaust. Born in 1938,  she was one of 5000 Jewish children living in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Poland, before World War II. Living in her town’s ghetto as a toddler, she was only five years of age when she and her parents were sent to a Nazi labor camp, and almost six when she and her mother were forced into a packed cattle truck and sent to Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau extermination camp, while her father was sent to Dachau.

Tova and her mother were liberated from Birkenau on January 27, 1945. Her father survived Dachau and was reunited with Tova and her mother the following year. Tova was just one of five children from Tomaszow Mazowiecki to return. More than 150 members of her family were murdered.

After spending several years in a German sanatorium for tuberculosis and Displaced Persons camps, Tova and her parents arrived in the U.S. when she was twelve years old. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Brooklyn College and a Master of Arts in Black Literature from City College of New York. Tova and her husband Maier Friedman immigrated to Israel and lived there for over ten years where she taught at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After returning to the U.S., she earned her master’s degree in social work from Rutgers University. She became the director of Jewish Family Service of Somerset and Warren Counties in NJ for over twenty years where she still works as a therapist. Tova has four children and eight grandchildren.

Tova last traveled back to Auschwitz for the 75th anniversary of its liberation in January 2020, where she met award-winning PBS foreign correspondent Malcolm Brabant. She wrote her memoir, The Daughter of Auschwitz, with Malcolm Brabant, which is available at Novel bookstore.

The annual Yom HaShoah observance is coordinated and hosted by Memphis Jewish Federation’s Holocaust Memorial Committee. It is supported by Baron Hirsch Congregation, Beth Sholom Synagogue, Chabad Lubavitch of TN, Facing History & Ourselves, Memphis Jewish Community Center, Or Chadash Conservative Synagogue, Temple Israel, and Young Israel of Memphis.

“We are so fortunate to welcome Tova as our speaker this year,” said co-chair Michelle Goldwin Kaufman. “Especially for our youth who are growing up in a time of increased antisemitism, we hope that hearing directly from a survivor about the realities of the Holocaust and the importance of maintaining our identity as Jewish people during times of existential threat will serve as a call to action.” For more information about the program, please contact Lorraine Wolf at Memphis Jewish Federation 901.767.7100 or at lwolf@jcpmemphis.org.

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