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Memphis Jewish Federation’s 56th Annual Yom HaShoah Observance to Feature Renowned National Educator

by JCPConnect-
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Roger Brooks, President and CEO, Facing History and Ourselves

By Gila Golder

Laura Linder, President and CEO of Jewish Community Partners (JCP), announced this week that the Memphis Jewish community is invited to attend Memphis Jewish Federation’s 56th annual Yom HaShoah observance, featuring Roger Brooks, President and CEO of Facing History and Ourselves. The program will take place on Thursday, April 12 at 6:30 pm at the Memphis Jewish Community Center (MJCC). Doors will open at 6:00 pm.

The event will honor Holocaust survivors living among us, remember those we have lost, and celebrate their legacy. The program will include the traditional candle lighting ceremony in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Shoah, as well as special prayers, readings and songs. The presentation of colors will be made by the Harry Washer Post no. 121 of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA. Teens from BBYO will make a brief presentation at the beginning of the ceremony.

Musical elements will be highlighted in this year’s program. Rabbi Cantor David Julian of Or Chadash Conservative Synagogue will lead the singing of the national anthem. Rabbi Cantor John Kaplan, Cantor Emeritus of Temple Israel and current spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Israel in Jackson, TN, will join Cantor Ricky Kampf of Baron Hirsch Congregation in the singing of a musical selection. Cantor Aryeh Samberg of Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth Congregation will chant the El Maleh Rachamim. Cantorial Soloist Abbie Strauss of Temple Israel will lead the singing of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. Pianist Claire Julian and violinist Diane Zelickman Cohen will play a musical interlude from Schindler’s List.

Rabbi Binyamin Lehrfield of Baron Hirsch Congregation will offer a closing benediction.

This year’s keynote program is a presentation by Roger Brooks on a collection of photographs of the Lodz Ghetto taken in secret by Polish Jewish photographer Henryk Ross. Charged by the Nazis to take propaganda photos in the ghetto, Ross risked his life to capture the miseries of ghetto life as it really was. Dr. Brooks will show a selection of these photos and examine what they tell us about the Lodz Ghetto specifically and the Holocaust in general.

Dr. Brooks joined Facing History and Ourselves in 2014. Prior to that, he served as the Elie Wiesel Professor in the department of Religious Studies at Connecticut College.  He has a longstanding partnership with the Holocaust Education Foundation at Northwestern University, and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2014. An expert in Holocaust studies and early rabbinic culture, he is author or editor of six books and numerous articles.

This year’s commemoration is chaired by Elaine Stegman, a second generation survivor, longtime member of Memphis Jewish Federation’s Holocaust Memorial Committee, and a previous chair of the committee. She will serve as emcee for the program.

As in previous years, the first place winner of Memphis Jewish Federation’s annual Holocaust art contest will have his artwork featured prominently on the cover of the program booklet. The first place winner of the essay contest will read her essay aloud during the program.

Open to all students in Tennessee and the Mid-South, this year’s art and essay contest elicited over 100 submissions from middle school and high school students, including some from Fayetteville and Chattanooga. Entries came in from a diverse group of students from public schools, Jewish day schools, and private schools not affiliated with the Jewish community. The theme of this year’s contest was “Remembering the Jews of Lodz: Jewish Life and the Struggle to Survive.”

The first-place essay was written by Batya Bosin, a 12th grade student at Goldie Margolin School for Girls. Second place went to Rakhel Finkelstein, a 9th grade student at Goldie Margolin School for Girls. Alexandra Nabity, an 11th grade student at Collierville High School, and Rina Soffer, an 11th grade student at Goldie Margolin School for Girls, each received honorable mention awards.

Noah Broadway, an 8th grade student at Snowden School, was the first place winner of the art contest. Second place was declared a tie between 7th grade student Kathy Lam and 8th grade student Anisa Shank, both of Colonial Middle School. Third place was awarded to Noah Sandler, an 8th grade student at Bornblum Jewish Community School. Briana Ashmore, 8th grade student at Colonial Middle School, received an honorable mention award. All artwork submissions will be on display in the MJCC lobby during the week before the Yom HaShoah observance, in an exhibit curated by local artist Guyla Wanderman.

Memphis Jewish Federation will honor Jennifer Shiberou, art teacher at Colonial Middle School, for her annual participation in the art contest for middle school students. Ms. Shiberou designs lesson plans every year according to the theme of the Holocaust art contest and challenges her students to delve into a complex exploration of the theme in their artwork submissions.

Winners of the art and essay contest will be awarded cash prizes in a separate ceremony immediately following the Yom HaShoah observance.

This year’s art and essay contest is sponsored by the Memphis Commissioners of the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and their spouses: Jack and Marilyn Belz, Allen and Eileen Exelbierd, Jan and Andy Groveman, Josh and Joanna Lipman, and Leonid and Friderica Saharovici.

Amidst photos from the Living On exhibit of Memphis-area survivors, both living and deceased, Holocaust survivors Diana Bondar, Miriam Cherny, Ruth Diamond, Jeannine Paul, Friderica Saharovici, and Freida Weinreich will participate in the candle lighting ceremony in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Shoah. Shoshana Cenker, a third generation survivor and member of MJF’s Holocaust Memorial Committee, will read biographies of each survivor as the flames are lit.

Holocaust survivor Sam Weinreich will sing the Ghetto Song, and Ted Winestone will chant the Tehillim (Psalms) and lead the audience in recitation of the Kaddish. In keeping with this year’s focus on Lodz, Mr. Weinreich, a survivor of the Lodz Ghetto, spoke at a special program in March hosted by JCP.

The annual Yom HaShoah observance is sponsored by Memphis Jewish Federation and coordinated and hosted by its Holocaust Memorial Committee. It is co-sponsored by the Memphis Jewish Community Center and supported by Anshei-Sphard-Beth El Emeth Congregation, Baron Hirsch Congregation, Beth Sholom Synagogue, Chabad Lubavitch of TN, Facing History & Ourselves, Or Chadash Conservative Synagogue, Temple Israel, and Young Israel of Memphis.

For more information about the program, please contact Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein at the Federation office, 767-7100, or at bzuckerbrot-finkelstein@jcpmemphis.org.

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