Montrealers commemorate Yom Hashoah virtually

Holocaust survivor Fishel Goldig sings the Partisan's Song during Monday's virtual Yom Hashoah ceremony.

The Montreal community gathered in large numbers last week, at home because of the COVID-19 crisis, for the annual commemoration of the Holocaust, presented on the Montreal Holocaust Museum’s Facebook page.

“Our annual remembrance of Yom Hashoah is a crucial moment to remember the victims, honour the survivors and learn from this tragedy,” said MHM officials. “If, at the beginning, the commemoration was to highlight the 75th anniversary of liberation and the end of the Holocaust, it will instead mark our solidarity with Holocaust survivors, at the heart of our thoughts in these times of isolation.”

The 40-minute long ceremony was introduced by Daniel Amar, the MHM’s executive director. Doris Steg, co-chair of the museum’s Yom Hashoah committee, lit a memorial candle.

“In normal times, 1,200 of us gather together in the synagogue to commemorate the Shoah, but today we’re all in our own homes,” she pointed out. “But we will still observe this commemoration as a united community.”

Fishel Goldig, a Holocaust survivor and Montreal Holocaust Museum speaker, sang while Brenda Gewurz, co-president of CIJA Quebec, read names of those murdered during the Holocaust.

“As the world around us changes, our values as Jews do not,” Israeli Consul-General David Levy told the ceremony. “The sanctity of life is a core value of Jewish faith, which is why it is so important not to meet in person and maintain social distancing. But we still found a way to stand in solidarity and remember the horrors that our people were forced to endure.”

The Consul-General added that the commitment of the community to remember and uphold the annual commemoration is “exemplified in these hard times,” referring to the COVID-19 crisis.

Gail Adelson-Marcovitz, president of Federation CJA, said the current trials “feel insignificant in relation to the horrific experience of our survivors.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to our survivors who lived through unspeakable horrors, and yet were able to start new lives here in Montreal after the war, raising families, building careers and contributing so much to their adopted city. You are not only pillars of our community, but the embodiment of resilience. Our responsibility as a community is to make sure we never forget.”

Bobby Titleman, co-chair of March of the Living 2020, pointed out that not being able to embark on the trip this year to Israel and Poland “does not mean the education will stop.”

Naomi Azrieli, president of the Azrieli Foundation, read an excerpt of the memoirs of Holocaust survivor Leslie Vertes, published by the foundation’s Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program.

Jason Rosenblatt, choir director of Jewish People’s and Peretz Schools, performed the song Vilne; Other speakers include Holocaust survivor Tommy Strasser; the Honourable Jacques Saada, president of Communauté sépharade unifiée du Québec and Montreal Holocaust Museum board member; and Avraham Elarar, president of the Canadian Sephardi Federation. Archival footage of survivor testimony featured the late Samuel Newman and the late Dee Dee Smilovitch.

The ceremony concluded with a memorial prayer by Rabbi Lisa Grushcow, Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom; the singing of the Partisan’s Song by Fishel Goldig and archival footage of the reciting of Kaddish by Holocaust survivor Sidney Zoltak.

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