Yom Ha’shoah-Northern Virginia’s 2014 Holocaust Observance

Voices Strong - Anthony Marill Photography
Voices Strong - Anthony Marill Photography

Yom Ha’shoah-Northern Virginia’s 2014 Holocaust Observance

On Deaf Ears, Media Coverage & Public Response in Holocaust Years

by Ken Orton,  Public Affairs

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints                                                                                    

A Holocaust Commemoration was held on Sunday evening, 27 April 2014, at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, on Little River Turnpike, in Fairfax, VA, to remember the horrible event that occurred during the terrible years of WWII in Germany and other European countries. The event was held to remember and memorialize those souls, both present and departed, who suffered so greatly at the hands of the Nazi oppressors in that terrible travesty of human nature. The common theme throughout the program was of the need to remember those innocent ones who have passed and to remind and encourage all of the need to continually exercise tolerance, peace, kindness, understanding, compassion and justice in our daily activities.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum defines survivors as those whose lives were uprooted from areas of occupation by the Nazis or their allies.  Sadly, most of the survivors of camps have already departed this world.  JCRC works continuously with the 40 Holocaust survivors in the Northern Virginia region.  Some of them suffered through labor, concentration, or extermination camps, but the majority were children impacted in other wa

The commemoration began with the symbolic blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn by Jake Kotin, followed by a dance movement presentation entitled “Eyes of the Soul”, and then the singing of the “The Star Spangled Banner” by both the choir and the audience.

The comments, readings and songs of the program presented the unfathomable events of the period; that the world, including the United States and other governments and populaces had been continuously informed of, and were aware of the ongoing tragic events then taking place in Europe. Yet governments chose to minimize or disregard the events for various reasons; including the inconvenience of a second story line of media coverage within the war, political considerations and economic worries about jobs at home, media and public resistance to open immigration of displaced Jewish persons, disbelief and denial that such atrocities could actually be happening on such an immense scale, and undisguised and open public anti-Semitism; hence the theme of the commemoration, “On Deaf Ears, Media Coverage & Public Response in the Holocaust Years”.  

 The service culminated with a formal candle lighting ceremony with candles being lighted by actual survivors of the prison death camps, followed by candles lighted in memory by relatives of those who have passed on. It was difficult to imagine the experiences and memories of these aged survivors as they approached the candles and to understand how hard life must have been to them. This was followed by the lighting of the final candle by Oren Marmorstein, Diplomatic Head of Regional Affairs, Embassy of Israel, and Susan Sandler, State Department Office of the Special Envoy on Holocaust Issues and daughter-in-law of a Holocaust survivor. The candle lighting was followed by a Moment of Silence and a performance by the community choir of “Meditation”, an original composition written especially for this Holocaust Observance by Adam Rothenberg. The service then concluded with the reciting of the poem, “Remember with Purpose”. The observance was a somber and tender reminder the responsibility we all carry as our brother’s keepers and defenders of that which is both right and just in this mortal world.

Debra Linick, JCRC Director for DC and Northern Virginia commented:  “Our JCRC was founded in 1938 as an attempt for the Jewish community to have a voice in the nation’s capital during this dark period in our history.  And yet six million were murdered.  Throughout the decades, Holocaust education has been a critical component of our work.  The solidarity of other faith organizations, political leaders and individuals throughout our community gives us hope that together we can fight the injustices of our time and honor the commitment to learning the lessons of the Holocaust.  Over fifty interfaith and political leaders joined with us and more than 20 interfaith voices from the Mormon community joined the Jewish community in the choir – their words, songs, prayers, meditations, all joined together, is what provides meaning to the legacy of survivors, martyrs and liberators.”

Douglas Bush, President of the Annandale Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, and reader during the observance commented, “I found the evening to be very informative and an important reminder of what can happen when the press and the public allow prejudices and economic concerns to repress their voice.  It was an honor to participate.”

The Observance this year was supported by community participants as program readers and voices in the Community Choir, to include:

·       The Rev. Daniel Velez-Rivera, St Gabriel’s Episcopal church, Leesburg

·       Douglas Bush, President, Annandale Stake, Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints

·       Members of the Mormon Choir (LDS) of Washington D.C.

·       Rajwant Singh, Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, Potomac, MD

·       Terry Angelotti, Executive Director, Centerville Immigration Forum, VA

·       Pratima Dharm, Hindu Chaplain, U.S. Army

·       Marco Grimaldo, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Richmond, VA

·       Rizwan Jaka, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, Sterling

·       The Rev. Mark Montgomery, Director of United College Ministries in No. VA

·       Ross Diamond, Hillel Director George Mason University, VA

·       Rev. Margaret Corletti, Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA

·       Rev.Melvin Jones, Antioch Baptist Church, Fairfax Station, VA

·       Rev. John Manwell, Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun, VA

As a closing thought and something to remember, the following text was found written on a wall in a bombed out basement in Cologne, Germany, by Allied troops after World War II:

“I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.

I believe in love even when feeling it not.

I believe in God even when God is silent.”

Kathryn James May 04, 2014 at 10:25 AM
There were many Jewish participants in this event, including Rabbis and Cantors from synagogues in Northern Virginia, as well as singers from choirs and choral groups from those synagogues. We were honored to also have non-Jewish members of the community join with us in this commemoration.


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