STORY & PHOTO BY VIVIANA GARCIA
The seventh annual Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Day of Remembrance, was held on April 20, 2022, at the Cypress College theatre where Holocaust Survivors shared their stories with members of the community.
Yom HaShoah is an annual memorial set to remember the six million Jews who were murdered during World War II by the German Nazis.
The event included the U.S National Anthem sung by 11-year-old Avivah Jablon, with the participation of the U.S Army Color guard.
Cypress College History Professor, David Halahmy, spoke on historical context about issues that Israel and Jews have faced dating back to the Golden age of Rome.
He spoke about the Roman Emperor Hadrian who massacred Jews, destroyed their sacred buildings, and outlawed practices crucial to their identity.
“And then he took this land of Israel and he renamed it to Palestine all in attempt to destroy the very identity of the Jewish people. But we survived,” said Halahmy.
Halahmy mentioned civilizations like the Ottomans who “came in sometimes they built right over our places of religious worship but we survived,”.
He spoke about the importance of standing behind the Jewish community with the phrase “never again”. Although Israel is imperfect, at its core the state is vital for the survival of the Jewish people.
“If you remember one thing that I say tonight it is this, the state of Isreal was not created because of the Holocaust. The Holocaust happened because there was no state of Isreal. There was no place for the Jewish people to have that safe haven,” said Halahmy.
Clifford Lester, Cypress College Professor Emeritus, shared his connection to the event by dedicating the Holocaust Survivor Portrait Gallery to his mother Ursula Lowenbach.
Lowenbach, a Holocaust survivor, who with her parents went into hiding for nearly two years in 1943 with 14 other Jews housed under poor conditions to escape from the Nazis.
She spent much of her life educating those about the importance of not taking freedom for granted. In addition to, keeping the memory of her brother Ernst alive after he was murdered at Auschwitz at 18 years old.
At one point ten survivors were sat on stage to answer questions about their experiences and although not physically present on campus, one survivor made an impact through a pre-recorded video.
Helen Weil born in 1921 in a small village in Germany, shared her thoughts on the Russia-Ukraine War based on what she experienced during World War II.
“Well, I watch a lot of television, a lot of news. I have very strong opinions. And I feel very strongly that Putin is like Hitler was, very much so. He didn’t care he wanted to be in charge. That was his feeling, his wish. And he became in charge as now Putin is, unfortunately,” said Weil.
When asked if she could feel and sense the people of Ukraine she said, “Of course. I feel strongly for those poor people, innocent people. People with families. Who are now suffering for no reason whatsoever. And I do in my own mind compare that to the time when I was young and similar things happen in Germany to the Jewish people,” said Weil.
A trait attributed to Weil is her optimistic personality and she sent out a message to the younger generations.
“There will always be an up there will always be a better time. Or an easier time at least that’s how I feel and how young people should look at life. Accept what you cannot change and then go on from there,” said Weil.
The ceremony also included a musical performance from Yamille Jaievsky on the Violin as well as Andrew Rodell playing the Piano.
Jablon was welcomed back on stage for her performance of Hatikvah which is the Israeli National Anthem.
A Kaddish prayer and lighting of memorial candles were also shared with the audience to complete the event.
Cypress College President, JoAnna Schilling, also shared a few words to conclude the event.
“It is our responsibility as educators to teach our students about our shared humanity. That war and brutality can never be accepted. That hatred of others never would have allowed us peace,” said Schilling.
To learn more information about the Holocaust Survivors visit, www.remembertheholocaust.org or visit the Ursula Lowenbach Holocaust Survivor Portrait Gallery at Cypress College.
If you wish to donate to the Holocaust Education Fund you may visit, the Cypress College Foundation website and click on the Give Now button.