Memorial ceremony held on eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day

In re­mem­brance: Wreaths sur­round the Monu­ment to the Six Mil­lion Jew­ish Mar­tyrs, at 16th Street and the Ben­jamin Frank­lin Park­way, to mark Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Day. TOM WAR­ING / TIMES PHOTO

Mu­sic, pray­er and po­etry high­lighted Phil­adelphia’s an­nu­al me­mori­al ce­re­mony on the eve of Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Day.

About 600 people gathered on Sunday af­ter­noon at 16th Street and the Ben­jamin Frank­lin Park­way, site of the Monu­ment to the Six Mil­lion Jew­ish Mar­tyrs, cre­ated in 1964 as the first pub­lic monu­ment in North Amer­ica to the vic­tims of the Holo­caust.

The theme this year was I Don’t Live in the Past But the Past Lives On in Me.

Rabbi Dav­id Straus called for a mo­ment of si­lence at the start of the ce­re­mony.

The day fea­tured a mil­it­ary col­or guard, a present­a­tion of wreaths by rep­res­ent­at­ives of loc­al Jew­ish or­gan­iz­a­tions and greet­ings in Eng­lish and Yid­dish.

Loc­al Jew­ish lead­ers, child Holo­caust sur­viv­or Su­z­anne Gross and the des­cend­ants of Holo­caust sur­viv­ors led a candle-light­ing ce­re­mony.

The mu­sic­al se­lec­tions in­cluded Ani Ma’Amin, the 13 art­icles of Jew­ish faith, which be­gins with the words “I be­lieve” and was sung by many Jews as they entered the gas cham­bers.

Speak­ers noted the 70th an­niversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Up­ris­ing, when 700 out­numbered and out­gunned Jews spent four weeks res­ist­ing at­tacks from 2,000 Nazis in Ger­man-oc­cu­pied Po­land dur­ing World War II.

“Their hero­ism will be re­membered,” said Miri­am Caine, of the As­so­ci­ation of Jew­ish Holo­caust Sur­viv­ors, in a speech de­livered in Yid­dish. “We hope that all of us and, most of all, our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren will know and re­mem­ber that the Jews fought back and did not go like cattle to the slaughter.

“Today, with the anti-Semit­ism ra­ging throughout the world, we Jews and even more so, the sur­viv­ors, have to speak — no, not speak, but shout — the truth of what happened sev­enty years ago and let the world know that Jews are not afraid to stand up for what is right and just.”

Elec­ted of­fi­cials on hand in­cluded state Sen. An­thony Wil­li­ams, state Reps. Brendan Boyle, John Sabat­ina Jr. and Mark Co­hen and City Coun­cil­man Kenyatta John­son.

Wil­li­ams and Boyle were the key­note speak­ers. They have in­tro­duced le­gis­la­tion re­quir­ing in­struc­tion on the Holo­caust, gen­o­cide and hu­man rights vi­ol­a­tions in schools.

Or­gan­izers cir­cu­lated post­cards for guests to in­dic­ate their sup­port for the le­gis­la­tion.

Boyle told the crowd that he was re­cently in Is­rael for “eight amaz­ing days.” He said the ce­re­mony should be about re­mem­ber­ing the past and shap­ing the fu­ture, adding that he is hope­ful that the le­gis­la­tion will soon pass out of com­mit­tee. Five oth­er states have ad­op­ted sim­il­ar le­gis­la­tion.

Wil­li­ams asked the crowd to re­peat after him the phrases, “Nev­er again,” and, “It should not have happened then and it will not hap­pen now.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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