The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is set to commemorate the 1945 liberation of Nazi camps.
On Sunday, April 19, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia will once again sponsor its Annual Memorial Ceremony for the Six Million Jewish Martyrs in honor of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
This year’s theme is “Seventy Years after Liberation: Legacy and Remembrance,” to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Nazi camps.
The program first took place in 1964, when the Association of Jewish New Americans, in conjunction with the Federation of Jewish Agencies of Greater Philadelphia, presented the Monument to the Six Million Martyrs by artist Nathan Rapoport to the city of Philadelphia at 16th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Philadelphia was one of the first cities in America to conduct a public Yizkor ceremony in memory of the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who perished during the Holocaust and the first to erect a monument in their honor.
An additional purpose of the annual Yom Hashoah program is to educate younger generations about the significance of this tragedy and the important lessons that can be drawn from it.
On the morning of April 19, approximately 350 middle and high school students, along with 50 parents and teachers, will meet and talk with 13 Holocaust survivors as part of the Dorothy Freedman Memorial Conversation with a Survivor program, which has been running for 17 years. The keynote speaker will be Jeannie Opdyke Smith, daughter of Holocaust rescuer Irene Gut Opdyke, who saved 12 Jewish people during the Holocaust and was later recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.
In addition, approximately 150 students will participate in a March of Children during the memorial ceremony.
This year’s program will also feature musical performances by the Beth Or Junior Choir, the Chavurat Hazemer Choir and violinist Philip Kates of the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as a wreath ceremony, memorial candlelighting, presentation of the colors by Fegelson Young Feinberg Jewish War Veterans Post 697 of Bucks County and special recognition of Holocaust survivors in attendance.
Cantor David Wisnia, himself an Auschwitz survivor, will be leading the El Maleh Rachamim memorial prayer, which he recently led at Auschwitz’s 70th anniversary liberation ceremony in Poland.
“As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps in Europe, and the end of the Second World War, we are aware that Holocaust survivors and their liberators will not be with us in a few more years,” said event chair Sarita Gocial.
“For the past seven decades, they have participated and shared their memories with family, friends and students. They have transmitted the importance of remembrance to their children and grandchildren as well as the greater community. We have a sacred obligation to continue this work in their memory and the memory of the Six Million Jewish Martyrs.”
The memorial ceremony is open to the public and will begin at 1 p.m. at 16th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. In the event of rain, the program will be held on the same date and time at the Gershman Y Levitt Auditorium, 401 S. Broad St., Philadelphia.
For more information on the Annual Memorial Ceremony for the Six Million Jewish Martyrs and all Holocaust-related programs, contact Beth Razin at 215-832-0536 or email: [email protected].