B’nai B’rith International observed Holocaust Remembrance Day with its annual program “Unto Every Person There is a Name,” now in its 24th year. B’nai B’rith is the official North American sponsor of the program under the auspices of Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust Museum and research center in Jerusalem. Participants read the names of the victims of the Shoah, noting where and when they were born and where and when they were murdered by the Nazis. The ceremonies occur on the 27th day of the month of Nissan on the Jewish calendar. These observances honor more victims each year, as more names are collected in an international database maintained by Yad Vashem.
An international committee convened by Yad Vashem suggests a theme each year. This year’s Yom Hashoah theme was “Defiance and Rebellion During the Holocaust: 70 Years Since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.” Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, serves on the committee on behalf of B’nai B’rith.
“Unto Every Person There is a Name” also directly involves Israeli President Shimon Peres. Peres penned a letter distributed to participating communities. It the letter, he encourages the Jewish people to never forget those who perished and to remember those who bravely rebelled in Warsaw as inspiration when facing future obstacles.
“We are nevertheless inspired by the power of the human spirit as demonstrated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, an illustration of heroism and struggle against the forces of evil,” Peres writes. “In the face of the heinous scheme to annihilate the Jewish people, this uprising constituted the tangible expression of the principles that have united the Jewish people through the ages.”
Once the theme is decided upon, program materials are distributed to the communities involved. Included in the materials are first hand accounts, interviews and other documents that called Jews to action against the Nazis or describing the events surrounding the uprising. Also with the materials is a copy of the poem “Everyone Has a Name” by the Jewish poet Zelda, from which the program’s name is inspired.
Throughout the month of April, B’nai B’rith groups and committees held programs across North America that included speakers and readings in synagogues, Jewish community centers and public places such as Holocaust Memorials and community parks.
“It’s incredible to watch how ‘Unto Every Person There is a Name’ has grown since its inception in 1989,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “It is important that we never forget the atrocities of the Holocaust and individually recognize all those who perished.”
In Maryland, a ceremony was held at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, Md. Art and artifact exhibits were displayed, the University of Maryland’s Jewish a cappella group performed, original poetry was read by survivors, and remarks were given by keynote speaker Walter Reich, Yitzhak Rabin Memorial professor of international affairs, ethics, and human behavior at the George Washington University.
At the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, those in attendance not only participated in the reading of the names, but also in a seminar titled “Holocaust Art: Then & Now” with George Mason University Art Historian Marion Deshmukh. Narratives and poetry were also read by representatives of various religious denominations. The program recognized 19 survivors in the community.
A Partnership with Alpha Epsilon Pi
In addition to community observances, B’nai B’rith partners with the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity for the “We Walk to Remember” program, which took place on 110 college campuses throughout the United States, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom this year. Members of AEPi participated in both the walk and “Unto Every Person There is a Name” programming.
Speaking from the walk at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said, “I’m honored to take part in ‘We Walk to Remember.’ B’nai B’rith has a great partnership with AEPi, and we’re wholly behind its efforts to make sure the Holocaust is never forgotten by today’s youth.”
This is the fifth year B’nai B’rith and AEPi have worked together on Holocaust Remembrance Day programming. The combination of the two powerful programs has created a lasting impact on campuses across the globe. It demonstrates that young people on campus understand the importance of remembering and have taken on the responsibility to tell the story of the victims of the Holocaust. B’nai B’rith provides the materials created by the international committee as well as “Never Forget” stickers that the walkers wear on black t-shirts.
“‘We Walk to Remember’ is a program that quintessentially represents what it means to be in Alpha Epsilon Pi,” said AEPi’s Adam Maslia, the Howard M. Lorber director of Jewish and Philanthropy Programming. “Stepping up as leaders in the Jewish community in partnership with B'nai B'rith International, the brothers of AEPi have crafted the world's largest on-campus Holocaust commemoration event that is so simple, yet so impactful and effective in ensuring that the world never forgets the atrocities of the Shoah."
Jewish Rescuers Citations
On the morning of April 8, the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) held a unique, joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony dedicated to the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. Taking place at the Martyrs’ Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza with about 900 people in attendance, 29 rescuers citations were awarded to Jews or their descendants who assisted other Jews in escaping to a safe haven or employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure the survival of Jews from the Holocaust in Europe.
The idea for the program was the brainchild of Haim Roet, a child Holocaust survivor from Holland. Roet is also responsible for the initial organization of “Unto Every Person” and approached the same Jewish organizations involved to kick start his latest initiative.
Roet was rescued through joint efforts of non-Jews and Jews, so the project was close to his heart. As “Unto Every Person” began to take off, Roet established the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers (JRJ) in which the World Center is also a major partner.
“Our principal contribution to the committee, other than popularizing the heroism of Jewish rescuers in Germany and occupied Europe during the Shoah,” Schneider said. “Is an annual ceremony in partnership with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael.”
The B’nai B’rith Center for Jewish Identity coordinates the program on behalf of B’nai B’rith. The support for this program is made possible by the generous support of Kurt and Tessye Simon, (of blessed memory). The center chair, Nancy Braun, announced that “Unto Every Person” programming for 2014 will be held on Yom Hashoah, April 27, 2014.
The Center for Jewish Identity encourages communities to continue to promote the important task of collecting names of victims of the Holocaust and submitting “Pages of Testimony” to Yad Vashem. These pages are intended to serve as a lasting memorial for the victims and are preserved in the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The names are also added to the central database. Time is running out to get first hand information, so it is important to collect as much information as possible from survivors and their families. If you need further information or want to bring the “Unto Every Person There is a Name” to your community or your community’s Yom Hashoah observance, please contact Rhonda Love at email@example.com.
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