Holocaust Remembrance

Another emotional Yom Hashoah ceremony

I have been attending Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) commemoration ceremonies at Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation in Côte-Saint-Luc for decades now. The Montreal Holocaust Museum does a masterful job coordinating this community-wide ceremony honouring the memory of Holocaust victims and the legacy of those who survived. We are so fortunate to still have Holocaust survivors with us, able to tell their dramatic stories.

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The title of this year’s ceremony, When Life Changed Forever, spoke to the diverse moments in the lives of survivors when they realized their worlds had shattered. I , like many, appreciate the format the Museum adopts each year for the program. Through video testimony, Holocaust survivors share their personal experiences and memories. In addition, these survivors and their descendants light six candles in memory of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

The Montreal survivors who shared their testimony were:
• Rachel Abish (born in Hungary, she recalled the hunger she suffered while living in yellow star and Red-Cross houses),
• Nettie Herscher (born in the Netherlands, she remembered packing bags before her family’s deportation to Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen),
• Bill Lewkowict (born in Lithuania, he hid in a forest for two years after escaping the ghetto),
• Judith Nemes Black (born in Hungary, she recalled learning a new name and identity while living in hiding),
• Edmond Silber, (born in France, he escaped the Vel d’Hiv roundup and lived in hiding in small village until liberation),
• Charlotte Wexler (born in Yugoslavia, she survived multiple concentration camps and a death march from Ravensbrück, noting that she was about to turn 1 and a mere 65 pounds when liberated).

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Survivor Sonja Langburt, son Ahron and granddaughter Mia Langburt at the podium,

 

The program also included the reading of poems and other short texts in English, French, Hebrew and Yiddish. Songs were performed by a choir of Grade 6 students from the Jewish People’s and Peretz Schools accompanied by Holocaust survivor, Fishel Goldig and directed by Jason Rosenblatt. Each year, a diverse audience of 1,200 people were present to witness the transmission of memory to younger generations.

The Montreal Jewish community and its estimated 4,000 Holocaust survivors have commemorated Yom Hashoah for nearly 70 years. It was declared Holocaust Memorial Day in Quebec in 1999 and in Canada in 2005. Former D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman was seated in the front row. It was he who adopted the motion in the National Assembly. I vividly remember speaking to him that day. His succcessor David Birnbaum was on hand as were many municipal politicians. There was no elected CAQ MNA present.

 

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The Yom Hashoah Committee, co-chaired by Doris Steg and Ruth Najman, organizes the commemoration.

The Montreal Holocaust Museum is a jewel in our midst, educating people of all ages and backgrounds about the Holocaust, while sensitizing the public to the universal perils of antisemitism, racism, hate and indifference. “We are celebrating our 40th anniversary,” said Steg. “There were 21,000 visits this past year. During the school year we welcome bus loads of students.”

Israel Consul General David Levy said that after the horrors of the Holocaust, we thought that would mark the end of antisemitism. He then alluded to the recently released B’nai Brith Canada Audit on Antisemitic Incidents which showed that Quebec accounted for the highest number of incidents (709), significantly surpassing Ontario (481) for the first time since the audit began 37 years ago. “Who would have believed this possible in Quebec, the safe haven for so many Holocaust survivors – second to New York and Israel,” the Consul General said.

Dorothy Zalcman Howard, the president of the Museum, spoke about “how much wisdom we have lost, how many acts of kindness, laughter, songs, jokes and memories.”

The CIty of Côte Saint-Luc has a partnership with the Museum, working together to educate students about the Holocaust. Flyers were distributed at Yom Hashoah. See below.

CSLDS Cabaret Yom Hashoah event - Front - Back

 


Commemoration of the Romanian Holocaust: a tribute to the late Baruch Cohen

Baruch Cohen, who passed away recently at the age of 98, was a special human being

Born in 1919 in Bucharest, Romania, he survived the Holocaust  by spending many months in forced labor. In this excerpt from a video by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre he  describes what he calls the ‘Bucharest Kristallnacht’: three days of looting, destruction and killings carried out by the Iron Guard in Bucharest in 1941. 

Here is his testimony.

On Sunday, November 25 , Councillor Dida Berku and David Anidjar, with Co-Chair, Adina Weiner, and former Chair Jaclyn Leebosh, organized a special tribute to Baruch at Beth Zion Congregation. Mark Bergman spoke about his grandfather Baruch. This was all part of the 22nd annual Romanian Holocaust Commemoration which Baruch organized. “It was Baruch Cohen's dream to have young people continue this ceremony and in his honour it is happening again this year,” said Councillor Berku, 

Dana Ionescu, a historian researcher  who is working on gathering the stories of local survivors and promoting a museum in Romania, spoke as well. She is a  doctoral student in the Sociology Department at the Université du Québec a Montreal and a Research Fellow at the Centrul de Istoria Evreiolor si Ebraistica (Jewish History Centre) in Iasi, Romania.

Baruch spent the last 29 years of his life as a devoted volunteer for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR).

Anidjar said he was recruited about 10 years ago  by Baruch to recite a poem at this commemoration  when he was a student at Herzliah High School. “Baruch's vision   was to get young people involved in the act of Holocaust Remembrance, and he always had a lot of affection for the students he recruited,” Anidjar said. “About six years ago I got involved in organizing the ceremony, and have been chairing it for five years now. This event is not officially run by any organization, so every year it depends on the initiative of young people in the community to stay alive. Thankfully we have a team of dedicated individuals who organize this together. Every year, we reconvene for a couple of months to put this together. This year we will even have a choir of Grade 6 students from United Talmud Torah.”

Anidjar is now a McGill graduate who works as a freelance writer. “While writing has always been an important part of my life, my greatest passion is for serving the community and bringing people together,” he said.

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David Anidjar, Baruch Cohen and a volunteer,

Baruch Cohen was the husband and best friend of Sonia Lift for seventy-six years.  His late daughter Monica  was married to former D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman.

Here is more about Baruch's remarkable life.


 


Premier Couillard takes part in Yom Hashoah commemoration in Côte Saint-Luc

The Montreal Holocaust Museum held its annual Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) commemoration on Wednesday, April 11 at 7:30 pm at the Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation in Côte-Saint-Luc.  Some 1,200 people were on hand.

This community-wide ceremony honoured the memory of Holocaust victims and the legacy of those who survived. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard was in attendance for the third time by my count, once as the leader of the opposition. He came in the company of D’Arcy McGee Riding Liberal MNA David Birnbaum.

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Premier Couillard addresses the audience. (Photo by Councillor Oren Sebag) 

Following the singing of the classic Eli Eli, which figures prominently in all Holocaust Remembrance events, Committee Co-Chairs Doris Steg and Ruth Najman gave opening remarks in English, French and Yiddish, reminding everyone that Montreal became the third largest home to Holocaust survivors behind only NewYork and Israel.

“We are the last generation to hear their voices in person,” said Najman, a resident of District 2 in CSL. “This is both a privilege and a responsibility.”

Najman went on to say that on April 12 students from Montreal and around the world would be taking part in the 30th anniversary of the March of the Living and visit the former death camps of Auschwitz  and Birkenau in Poland.  Ironically, it was almost 25 years ago to the day that I took part in a mission to Poland to mark the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. I walked through the camps of Majdanek, Treblinka, Auschwitz and Birkenau in the company of survivors. It was something  I will never forget and one  I think every Jew should  experience  for themselves if they can.

Premier Couillard recognized former D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman, who was in attendance, for having Yom Hashoah officially recognized in  the National Assembly. He praised the Jewish community for its contributions to Quebec society and spoke glowingly about his visit to Israel last spring.

Newly arrived Israel Consul General David Levy spoke about his mother and grandmother who were from France and saved by a French family during the Holocaust.

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The Kliot family lights a candle. (Photo by Councillor Oren Sebag)

The title of this year’s ceremony, I want you to remember… A Childhood Lost , highlighted the lives of children during the Holocaust. Through video testimony, Holocaust survivors  shared their personal experiences and stories. In addition, these survivors and their descendants lit six candles representing the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

  • Eva Verebes was born in Hungary. She recalled her father being taken away just days after the German occupation. Turning the clock today she stated: “My family is a living example that Hitler did not succeed completely.”
  • Muguette Myers, born in France, credited her survival to the righteousness of the villagers of Champlost.
  • Mario Polese, born in the Netherlands, managed to survive with both of his parents thanks to the generosity of his Dutch neighbours. “There was a Nazi commander who sympathized with us and warned the Jews about raids,” he recalled.
  • Ernest Ehrmann, born in Czechoslovakia, survived four concentration camps, and was liberated in Dachau. “All of us who survived can count on our lucky stars,” he said.
  • Leo Kliot, born in Poland,  remembered his mother’s bravery as they fought to survive in the Vilna ghetto.
  • Zissel Farkas, born in Romania, recalled the traumatic separation from her parents, younger sisters and brother upon their arrival in Auschwitz. Her daughter Malkie told the incredible story of survival. Zissel came from a wealthy family who one day were chased from their house with only the clothes on their backs. She credited her older sister for keeping her alive in Auschwitz. After the war she lived in Sweden for three years, met her husband and moved to Montreal and raised a family. Today she has 26 grandchildren and 70 great grandchildren.

The program also included the reading of poems and other short texts in English, French, Hebrew and Yiddish. Songs were performed by a choir with Grade 6 students from the Jewish People’s and Peretz Schools, accompanied by Fishel Goldig, Holocaust Survivor, and directed by Jason Rosenblatt.  

Jeremy Levett, who went on the 2016 March of the Living, shared that  experience with the audience. “It is one thing to study the Shoah in a classroom and quite another thing to visit a gas chamber in the company of Holocaust survivors whose families were murdered in that very same gas chamber,” he said. “The survivors’ strength and determination to tell and retell their story and revisit the horrors they had witnessed in lands where the  history of their ancestral communities was almost erased, has allowed those who accompanied them to put many things into perspective. We are forever indebted to the survivors for their lasting memories, lessons and values they continue to instill within us. It is now our obligation to continue to pass on their memories and their message.”

Samantha Bloom, who went on the March of the Living last year, spoke about how truly  “more real”  Auschwitz and Birkenau became  when she actually set foot on the premises.

The Holocaust Museum
 

The Montreal Jewish community and its estimated 4,000 Holocaust survivors have commemorated Yom Hashoah for nearly 70 years. It was declared Holocaust Memorial Day in Quebec in 1999 and in Canada in 2005. Today, the Montreal Holocaust Museum’s Yom Hashoah Committee organizes the commemoration.

The Montreal Holocaust Museum educates people of all ages and backgrounds about the Holocaust, while sensitising the public to the universal perils of antisemitism, racism, hate and indifference. Through its Museum, its commemorative programs and educational initiatives, the Montreal Holocaust Museum promotes respect for diversity and the sanctity of human life.

Côte Saint-Luc Commemoration

To mark Yom Hashoah, , the City of Côte Saint-Luc  showed this 10-minute video  at our April council meeting featuring Holocaust survivor Marcel Zielinski  

Zielinski, 83, lives in Côte Saint-Luc. He was present at the city council meeting."Approximately 35,000 Holocaust survivors ended up in Canada, with at least 9,000 in the Montreal area and many of those in Côte Saint-Luc," Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said. "I met Marcel Zielinski last year and he shared his story with me. I'm honoured he agreed to share it with us on video so that we can share it with our community and beyond."

Zielinksi was born on Krakow, Poland in September 1934. Nazi Germany invaded Poland around the time of his fifth birthday. His family was forced to live in the overcrowded Krakow Ghetto, before being sent to the Płaszow concentration camp, just south of Krakow. This camp was depicted in the movie Schindler's List.

Zielinski, who is an avid cyclist, rode across Canada in 1998 at the age of 63. At the end of June, he will be reurning to Poland for The Ride of the Living, a 90 km fundraising bike ride from the gates of the former Birkenau concentration camp to Krakow, a route that Zielinski walked at age 11 after the camp was liberated. 

Mourning Sam Newman

I also want to extend my deepest condolences at this time to CSL Director of Public Works Beatrice Newman and her family on the passing of her father  Sam Newman, a Holocaust survivor, mentor and  leader, who passed away this week. Here is a video Mayor Brownstein did with Sam and his wife two years ago.  


Official dedication of Elie Wiesel Park to take place on Friday

The official dedication ceremony for Elie Wiesel Park  at the corner of Cavendish and Kildare will take place on Friday, November 3 at 10 am.

Elie Wiesel sign

Wiesel, a renowned Holocaust survivor, died in July 2016 at the age of 87.  Wiesel was sent to Auschwitz and Buchenwald during the Holocaust. He wrote dozens of works championing the human spirit. Throughout his life he fought for peace, human rights and simple human decency. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, recounted his family being sent to the Nazi concentration camps in his first book, "Night," which was published in France in 1958.

The park was completed last fall after I undertook extensive consultation with local residents. We will formally unveil the new sign in the company of many students. Mayor Mitchell Brownstein will deliver opening remarks, followed by Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal Anthony Housefather, D'Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum, former Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko from Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation and Montreal Holocaust Memorial Museum Vice-President and survivor  Eva Kuper.

 

 


The legacy of Ilse Zilversmit; mourning the passing of Councillor Kovac's mom

Ruth Kovac has spent three decades as one of the City of Côte Saint-Luc`s very devoted members of council. At public events, she would seldomly be seen without her mother Ilse Zilversmit by her side.

Ilse passed away on June 23 at 90 years of age. She was a terrific woman and right up until her final days, before being hospitalized for a cancer that had reached the critical stage, she lived on her own in a condominium and remained very self-sufficient.

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Ilse Zilversmit (left) with her daughter Ruth, granddaughter and great grandchildren, in this photo taken less than two months ago.

Ilse was a Holocaust survivor. Her family home in Amsterdam became a refuge for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, as early as 1934. As a teenager in 1943, she and her family were deported to the Westerbork transit camp. In February 1944, she was again deported - along with her family- to the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany. She came to Canada and with her husband Gunther, whom she met in a camp, and raised three children.

Ilse  lived in the same Amsterdam neighbourhood as perhaps the best-known of those names, Anne Frank. Their parents knew each other; Zilversmit and her sister were around the same age as Anne and her older sister. Ilse and her family have another thing in common with the Franks – they were also sent to Bergen-Belsen. Her father was killed there, but she survived along with her mother and sister. “I'm the lucky one, I have six great grand-children,” she said in an interview just two years ago.

In an interview with the Canadian Jewish News in 2010, Ilse elaborated upon her connection to Anne Frank. “Anne was a nice girl, but a little, I wouldn’t say wild, let’s say energetic,” she said “while her older sister was very serious. We spoke to them at Bergen-Belsen, but couldn’t see them because there were two rows of barbed wire with straw in between. Anne asked if there was anyone from Holland, and then when we answered, if we had any food. We found some bread and threw it over, but someone else grabbed it first. Those were the last words we had with them.”

I always enjoyed my conversations with Ilse. She followed current events very closely and was naturally very proud of her daughter the politician. It was just over a month ago that Ilse came to City Hall with Ruth,  her granddaughter and great grandchildren  for our annual VE (Victory in Europe) Day, where the three generations lay a wreath. A few days later she joined Ruth at the Yom Hashoah ceremony.

"Before we took her to the hospital for the final time I came to her condo and she had the TV on her favorite channel, CNN," said Ruth. "She told me to take care of her plants. My dad passed away 29 years ago. So mom lived nearly one-third of her life as a widow. She lived a good life."

Here is a video Ilse recorded for the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre a number of years ago.   It is a stunning story, one that will live on for many generations to learn. The legacy of Ilse Zilversmit.

 

Survivante de l'Holocauste, Ilse Zilversmit raconte comment la maison familiale d’Amsterdam est devenue un refuge pour les Juifs fuyant l’Allemagne nazie dès 1934. En 1943, alors qu’elle était adolescente, Mme Zilversmit a été déportée avec sa famille au camp de transit de Westerbock. En février 1944, elle et sa famille ont de nouveau été déportées vers le camp de Bergen-Belsen, en Allemagne, et elle décrit la vie dans le camp.
 


Annual Yom Hashoah commemoration focuses on rebuilding lives

The annual Yom Hashoah (Holocaust remembrance) commemoration organized by The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre (MHMC) is always an extraordinarily well put together and touching evening. This year’s May 4 edition at the Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation on Baily Road in Côte-Saint-Luc was no different.


The theme of this year’s ceremony was the struggle and ability to rebuild lives after the genocide. Through video testimony, Holocaust survivors shared memories of their post-war battle to move forward and begin their lives anew. In addition, these survivors and their descendants lit six candles in representation of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

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Marcel Tenenbaum lights a candle.

The Montreal-based survivors participating as speakers and candle-lighters this year were Leon Celemencki (born in France, who survived in hiding with his uncle and in various orphanages), Guta Fleising (born in Poland, survived the Warsaw Ghetto, Majdanek, Auschwitz, Ravensbruck, and Malchow camps, and multiple Death Marches), Willie Glaser (born in Germany, survived the war in Great Britain), Yetti Glasman (born in Romania, survived by posing as a German nanny and farmhand), Rena Schondorf (born in Poland, survived the Krakow Ghetto, and Plaszow, Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, and Salzwedel camps) and Marcel Tenenbaum (born in Brussels, survived two years hiding in an attic and imprisonment at the Mechelen (Malines) transit camp.

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At 95 Willie Glaser is full of energy.

We are so fortunate to still have these survivors among us. Their stories are chilling. It provides a stark reminder of what cold blooded murderers the Nazis were and how remarkable it is that these individuals came to Canada and rebuild their lives. They are first asked to come to the stage and then, along with the audience, watch their video testimony. Thank goodness the MHMC undertook this important project for these interviews will be invaluable for generations to come.


Judith Nemes Black and Joyce Rappaport co-chair the event committee. Rappaport noted how 40,000 people who survived the Holocaust came to Canada, including 9,000 to Montreal. “Some felt welcomed,” she said, “and some were ignored and shunned by the general population. The impact of surviving the Holocaust can never be erased.”


Israel Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman spoke, as did Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko of Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation. The Children’s Choir, directed by Rabbi Shimshom Hamerman and accompanied by Anna Levitana, sang beautifully. This group was comprised of students from Hebrew Academy, JPPS, Solomon Schechter Academy and UTT. District 2 resident Natalie Constantine provided translation in sign language.


Towards the end of the ceremony, the survivors in the room were asked to stand. Having attended these events for the past several decades, it was evident of the shrinking number. Next Second Generation (the children of survivors) were asked to stand. That number was more significant. After that, past participants in the March of the Living, Third Generation and the rest of the audience were asked to stand as well.


Cantor David Guber of Beth El Congregation sang a powerful rendition of the Memorial Prayer. Survivor Leo Honigwachs recited kaddish. Proceedings concluded with the partisan hym, O Canada and Hatikvah.


Quebec Lieutenant Governor Michel Doyon was the highest ranking dignitary on hand, joined by D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum and many municipal representatives.

 


Premier Couillard attends Yom Hashoah commemoration in Côte Saint-Luc

The annual Yom Hashoah commemoration took  place on Wednesday, April 15 in the Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation on Baily Road in Côte-Saint-Luc, with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on hand to deliver greetings. He was on hand two years ago as well, shortly after becoming leader of the Liberal Party.

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The Premier, with David Birnbaum, is welcomed to CSL.

Couillard expressed his sympathy to the survivors of the Holocaust on hand for their loss. "Today their memories are very much alive," he stated. "This is why we have a duty to remember. We must remember that human beings are capable of the best and the worst."

The Premier was accompanied by D'Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum. Just a few seats away was Birnbaum's predecessor, Lawrence Bergman. I was on hand along with Mayor Anthony Housefather and Councillors Sam Goldbloom, Ruth Kovac, Dida Berku, Mitchell Brownstein, Glenn J. Nashen and political representatives from the municipal, provincial and federal levels. Israel Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman, the child of a Holocaust survivor, spoke eloquently and reminded everyone that having a Jewish State will ensure that a Holocaust never happens again.

This community-wide commemoration is extremely well organized by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre. The ceremony perpetuates the memory of all those who were murdered during the Holocaust and honours those who survived. It reminds us of our collective responsibility to remember the Holocaust and to protect individuals and communities from oppression, antisemitism, hate, racism and discriminatory policies.

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Co-Chairs Judith Nemes Black and Joyce Rappaport with Rivka Augenfeld.

This year’s theme, Remembering 1945 – Liberation: Hope and Anguish, reflected on a year characterized by both hope and despair as the end of the war drew near and liberation was in sight. Here in Montreal we are fortunate to still have Holocaust survivors in our midst 70 years after the end of the war, survivors who have contributed so much to our dynamic Jewish and Montreal communities. They were able to rebuild their lives despite the destruction and the losses they had suffered. Judith Nemes Black and Joyce Rappaport served as co-chairs.

Six Holocaust survivors lit memorial candles and shared their memories of liberation through short video testimonies. No matter how many times I hear these stories, I still find it hard to believe that such cruelty existed  in this world.

Hermann Gruenwald explained that he was the only Jewish cook in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He survived a death march where almost 18,000 people died, as well as several weeks of starvation before the liberation thanks to the food he could get because of his job in the kitchen. Elie Dawang was 10 years old at the liberation of France. He recalled the days when the Germans left the little village where he had been living in hiding, and the emotions he felt when he was reunited with his father. Sara Hersco-Hollander described how the Germans left her and other women in a cattle car without water and food for days on their way to Dachau. She was liberated by the Americans on May 1, 1945 and taken to a DP camp in Feldafing. Ursula Feist recalled the feeling of sadness having lost many family members in Berlin as the British celebrated the Liberation. Olga Sher spoke about the fear that haunted her for long years even after the liberation. Not only was she afraid that the Germans might return, but she, as many other Jews, was also not welcomed back by their fellow Polish countrymen. Ernestina Neumann Brauner related how hopeful she felt at liberation, but at the same time her dread of the Russian soldiers who had a reputation for being rough and raping women.

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Ernestina Brauner Najman lights a candle with her daughter Ruth and granddaughter Aliza.

Each survivor was accompanied by second and third generation survivors, who will ensure that these stories remain very much alive for years to come.

Congratulations go out to JPPS choirmaster and music teacher Elena Khitrin, who chose her Grade 6 students to perform at this very special event as it is in keeping with their curriculum unit - the Holocaust. JPPS Yiddish teacher Sheila Witt, has always believed that students learn best when they interact with the subject matter and learn about it from different perspectives. For Yom Hashoah, Ms. Witt created an innovative project that will help every student understand, think about and honour the victims of the Holocaust. Each student was matched with a child victim of the Holocaust who had the same date of birth (day and month) or Hebrew name. Using the Yad Vashem website , each student created a portrait of their assigned child victim, which included information about their child’s family, where they lived and ultimately, where they perished. Alongside photographs of each child victim, the student wrote a text about the child, in both English and Yiddish. These pages were put together to create an album, which leaves a profound mark on every single student, as it creates a connection between the student and their assigned child victim. “This connection,” says Sheila, “is never lost.”

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Some of the JPPS students. 

 

Ms. Witt later invites Holocaust survivors to visit with the Grade 6 students, where they view and discuss the album. which is then donated to the JPPS library; a place where the child victims will always be remembered.

Below is MNA Birnbaum speaking about Yom Hashoah in the National Assembly, showing his impeccable bilingualism.

 

 


Experiencing a day of remembrance in Côte Saint-Luc at VE Day and Yom Hashoah

Sunday, April 27 was quite a day in the City of Côte Saint-Luc. In the morning we hosted the annual Victory in Europe (VE  Day)  program at Veteran’s Park and City Hall.  That same evening, well more than 1,000 people packed Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation for the annual Yom Hashoah commemoration.

While Côte Saint-Luc still does mark Remembrance Day on November 11, over the years we have done VE Day in a much bigger way. The weather is generally nicer, an important factor given the age of our surviving veterans, and therefore it makes more sense. Due a number of scheduling conflicts, we held the event a bit earlier this year. There was a good crowd on hand at Veteran’s Park. Frank Levine, the dynamic president of The Brigadier Kish Branch #97 of the Royal Canadian Legion oversaw the ceremony with Councillors Allan J. Levine and Ruth Kovac as co-chairs. Our invaluable communications manager Regine Banon coordinated all of the logistics. The Consul Generals of Israel, Great Britain and the Netherlands (in this case the honourary Consul Michael Polak) laid wreaths as did  Mayor Anthony Housefather, newly elected D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum,  his predecessor Lawrence Bergman, Men’s Club president Sidney Margles and Station 9 Police Commander Marc Cournoyer .

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With Mayor Housefather and veterans Sidney Barnet and George Nashen.

 

“World War II was fought because of a lust for power and prejudice,” said Frank Levine. “Discrimination based on race, religion or sex is no longer acceptable. Has this new world erased the lust for power and prejudice? The informed citizen would say no.”

Israel  Consul General Joel Lion said he knows about wars firsthand only too well. He shared with us the fact that his own son is now serving in an elite unit in the Israeli Army. “I know what it is like to be the father of a child at war,” he said.

YOM HASHOAH

The  Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre once again did an outstanding job with the presentation of Yom Hashoah.  The format they have in place does not change year to year, nor should it. We are so fortunate to have survivors of this terrible period in human history with us to share their stories. Following an introduction from event co-chairs Judith Nemes Black Joyce Rappaport and Raizel Candib, Consul General Lion took to the bimah.  In a powerful address he provided shocking accounts of 21 incidents of anti-Semitism which have occurred in the last two weeks alone around the world in places like New York City, Ohio, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Franceand the Ukraine. “History told us that only an independent State of Israel will ensure that we do not have another Holocaust,” he stated.

The traditional six candles were lit – symbolizing the six   million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

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The Schlomowitz family light a candle.

 

The ceremony perpetuates the memory of all those who were murdered during the Holocaust and honours those who survived. It reminds us of our collective responsibility to remember the Holocaust and to protect individuals and communities from oppression, hate, racism and discriminatory policies.

This year’s theme, 1944 – and the trains kept going, spoke to the horrific events of 1944 and as a sub-theme, honoured the memory of the Jews of Hungary, most of whom were deported and murdered in the space of a few months during that year. Six Holocaust survivors, symbolizing the six million victims of the genocide of the Jews during World War II,  lit memorial candles. They  shared their memories of 1944 through short video testimonies.

In these video clips, Agnes Kent recouned how she was saved by Raoul Wallenberg. Charles Akerman spoke  about his family and his mother’s courage in leaving him with a Catholic family that would save him in a small French village. Daisy Gross spoke with great emotion of her hidden childhood under the protection of her parents’ cook, while they were murdered by the Nazis. Joe Fellner shared his journey from a ghetto in Hungary, through deportation to Auschwitz and forced labor, and finally survival of a death march. Meier Schlomowitz reflected on his life in the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania, until his deportation to the Landsberg concentration camp, where he was released. Lilly Toth explained how she escaped a shooting by the Arrow Cross in Hungary, pretending she was dead, washing up on the shore of a river and being rescued by German soldiers who did not know she was Jewish.

The commemoration included poems and short readings in English, French, Hebrew and Yiddish, as well as songs performed by the Bialik High School Choir. A song in Ladino was performed by well-known soprano and cantor, Sharon Azrieli Perez.

Yom Hashoah was declared Holocaust Memorial Day in Quebec in 1999 and in Canada in 2005. 

I would like to commend several of my constituents from District 2 who were involved with the committee to organize this event:Joseph Fishman, Paula Bultz, Ruth Najman, Marcel Tenenbaum and Renata Zajdman. Another District 2 resident, Natalie Constantine, performed sign language translation and the Bialik High School Choir headed by Lorna Smith did its usual impressive job.

David Birnbaum was on hand, but nobody from the Charter loving Parti-Québecois nor the CAQ. Municipally it was nice to see a city councillor from Rosemount, Guillaume Lavoie, on hand alongside his NDG colleague from Projet Montréal Peter McQueen, NDG-Côte des Neiges Borough Mayor Russell Copeman, Councillor Lionel Perez, municipal reps from other cities and towns and NDP Member of Parliament Tyrone Benskin. During the recitation of names of those who perished during the Holocaust, radio personality Tommy Schnurmacher (the child of survivors) took part.

Congratulations to the committee and coordinator Eszter Andor for a well run event which should be put on full video and shown in schools. About 4,000 survivors still live in Montreal today. A number of them are still involved as volunteers with the Holocaust Memorial Centre, which, together with its Remembrance Committee, organizes the annual Yom Hashoah commemoration.

The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre educates people of all ages and backgrounds about the Holocaust, while sensitizing the public to the universal perils of antisemitism, racism, hate and indifference.

See Councillor  Glenn J. Nashen's blog and his excellent video.


VE Day and Yom Hashoah ceremonies set for CSL on Sunday, April 27

The annual Victory in Europe (V-E) Day commemoration will  takes place on Sunday, April 27 at 11 am at Veterans Park, next to Côte Saint-Luc City Hall on Cavendish Boulevard. That same evening, Yom Hashoah will be held at the Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation on Baily Road in CSL.

In attendance at VE Day will be members of the Brigadier Frederick Kisch Branch 97 of the Royal Canadian Legion, Mayor Anthony Housefather, members of our Côte Saint-Luc city council, dignitaries, veterans and residents. 
 
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Meeting with veterans at last year's ceremony.
 
“It is important to express our gratitude to the men and women who have fought to liberate Europe,” said Ruth Kovac, who is the co-chairperson of this event with Councillor Allan J. Levine. “Our veterans also ended the genocide against the Jewish population of Europe and others targeted by the Nazis. Attending this ceremony is a concrete and visible manner to honour them.”  
 
Victory in Europe (V-E) Day was May 8, 1945, the date when the Second World War Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany. The cenotaph at Veterans Park honours the memory of those who gave their lives in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. 
 
“I encourage everyone to come on April 27 and show support for our veterans who still continue to do so much for our community and look after their own,” Councillor Levine said. “Every November during the annual Poppy Fund Campaign, the veterans sit for hours in malls and grocery stores pinning endless poppies on endless lapels to collect funds. The monies collected are then returned to the community through donations to local organisations, such as the Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation, the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Jewish General Hospital, the Salvation Army, the Old Brewery Mission and many others.”
 
This year’s commemoration will be conducted by Brigadier Frederick Kisch Branch 97 President, Frank Levine.  In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held indoors at the City Hall.
 
Meanwhile, the  annual Yom Hashoah  community-wide commemoration,  organized by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre,  perpetuates the memory of all those who were murdered during the Holocaust and honours those who survived. It reminds us of our collective responsibility to remember the Holocaust and to protect individuals and communities from oppression, hate, racism and discriminatory policies.
 
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This year’s theme, 1944 – and the trains kept going, will speak to the horrific events of 1944 and as a sub-theme, honour the memory of the Jews of Hungary, most of whom were deported and murdered in the space of a few months during that year.

 


An emotional Yom Hashoah ceremony in CSL

The annual Yom Hashoah commemoration was held  April 7 at  Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem on Baily Rd in  Côte-Saint-Luc). The ceremony helps to perpetuate the memory of all those who were murdered during the Holocaust, to honour the survivors. It reminds us of our collective responsibility to remember the Holocaust and to protect individuals and communities from oppression, hate, racism and discriminatory policies. This community-wide commemoration is  organized by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.

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As usual, the sanctuary at the TBDJ was filled to capacity. Quebec Liberal MNA for D'Arcy McGee Lawrence Bergman was accompanied by his party's new leader, Philippe Couillard (pictured above). Mount Royal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler and Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum were there, as was Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron and several members of council.  Other municipal politicians, including yours truly, were on hand as well

This year’s theme, 1943, the Year of Uprisings, honoured the courage of the many thousands of men and women who stood up against deportation and mass murder, risking their lives to initiate uprisings in ghettos (Warsaw, Bialystok, Lvov and others) and death camps (Treblinka and Sobibor, and others). Despite these acts of bravery, 1943 was a year of mass deportation and vast destruction of Jewish communities.

Jacob Lev

Six Montreal Holocaust survivors lit memorial candles, symbolizing the six million Jews murdered during World War II. They shared their memories of 1943 through short video testimonies.Jacob Lev (picture at the left)  broke down as he watched video testimony  about his life in the Warsaw Ghetto, how he smuggled food for his family as a young boy and about his life in a labour camp. Child survivor Yehudi Lindeman described how he was saved by his mother and other rescuers from deportation, living in hiding until liberation by Canadian soldiers.Leon Calderon shared the story of his deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau from his native Salonika and how he was forced to clean up the Warsaw ghetto, with 100 Greek camp inmates, after the uprising.Musia Schwartz talked about her survival in Warsaw under a false identity as a Christian maid. Fela Ross described her life in the Lodz ghetto until her deportation to Auschwitz, from there to slave labour in Hamburg and finally to Bergen-Belsen where she was liberated.Baruch Spiegel, the last Montreal survivor involved in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, shared his memories of the fighters and his involvement in the uprising. He was  represented by his daughter, Mindy Spiegel, who lit the memorial candle on his behalf.

Joel Lion, the Consul General of Israel, spoke about his late grandfather who died in the Sobibor death camp."It is our duty to make sure that Jews will never be killed again because they are Jewish," he remarked. "The antisemitic beast is still alive."

It was a powerful experience to be part of. We are fortunate to have many survivors still with us, willing and able to tell their stories. At the conclusion of the evening all Holocaust survivors present were asked to rise. The numbers have dropped naturally over the years, but there was still a strong presence. Then the second generation were asked to rise and the numbers increased dramatically.

The Bialik High School Choir and soprano Sharon Azrieli Perez provided music and song.