Congregation Beth Torah holds 13th 24-Hour Reading of the Names
By Karen Hoffman
This past Shabbat, at Congregation Beth Torah, a very special morning service occurred. The bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies that never took place, because of lives cut short during the Holocaust, were publicly observed, as Beth Torah prepared to begin its 13th annual 24-hour Reading of the Names Vigil that evening.
As father and daughter (Chuck Smith and Jessica Winter) shared the honor of chanting the entire Haftorah in memory of children who never had the opportunity, I joined others as tears formed in my eyes. Minutes later, a beautiful writer, Harriet Gross, shared a poignant question Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name”? As Harriet spoke, her words tugged at my heart. I carried the memory of standing on the pulpit in the middle of the night, over the past several years, during the annual 24-hour vigil, reciting names, ages, places of births and deaths of those who died during the Holocaust.
Then Rabbi Rafi Cohen shared words about the week’s Torah reading, “Kedoshim,” where we are taught about holiness, how we can be holy and how all people can be holy. As humans created in God’s image, we are all holy beings. Rabbi Cohen asked us to consider how much is as much as possible in what we do? How holy should we be? The commandment to be holy, as Rabbi Cohen taught me that day, is a journey, but that does not mean it’s impossible.
Later on that Shabbat evening at Beth Torah, as we celebrated havdallah, the flame of a single candle was extinguished, and we began lighting 11 other candles. This time memorial candles were lit, in memory of the 6 million Jews and 5 million non Jews who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust. These people were put to death with no regard for the sparks of holiness with which they were created. I cried, reflecting on the millions of lives lost, and remembering, yes, remembering that all lives are holy.
The 24-Hour Reading of The Names is a perfect time to remember those whose lives were cut way too short. In their memory and in an effort to carry a spark of God’s holiness with me on a day that was subdued more than joyous, I smile. As I sat with my loving husband, I met and hugged my dear friends who had all come together to remember. I rejoiced in appreciation for all the gifts, big, little, hidden and tangible — thankful for the sparks of happiness and holiness I can find in everyday living.
Never Forget: Community gathers for Yom HaShoah commemoration
By Rachel Gross Weinstein
“We will never forget” — these words were uttered throughout the Yom HaShoah commemoration April 27. The night was not only a time to remember those who died in the Holocaust, but also to honor the survivors in the community.
The Holocaust Remembrance Day program was hosted by the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance (DHM/CET) at Temple Shalom. Holocaust survivors and their families, along with rabbis, community leaders and more, were in attendance.
Beginning with a procession of the local Holocaust survivors in attendance, the evening opened with Cantor Leslie Niren singing the “Partisan Song.” Temple Shalom Senior Rabbi Andrew Paley shared some powerful insights about the importance of memory.
“Memory is a powerful tool, memory has the power to educate, transmit facts and events from one generation to another,” he said. “Memory has the power to inspire, to provide a measure of hope against overwhelming odds of darkness and despair. But most importantly, memory has the power to transform. As we recall the horror of the Holocaust, as we remember and honor and hear the stories of survival and survivors, let us not be content to just be informed. May it be that the sadness, anger and frustration that we feel in hearing the stories of the Shoah be turned into hopeful, righteous indignation.”
He added that it is the job of everyone to use their memory and resources to put an end to all that causes suffering and indifference.
Aviva Linksman, Rivae Balkin-Kliman, Augie Furst, Tanya Johnson, Elliot Tverye and Dahlia Hellman, six young adults who are third generation Holocaust survivors, shared the stories of their grandparents’ experiences during that time. Each one lit a remembrance torch to represent the six million that died.
Keeping the memory of those who died alive and sharing the stories of those who survived is imperative, according to Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the DHM/CET.
“While this work extends throughout the year, today is a special day, Yom HaShoah, a day to reflect on the unimaginable suffering those in the Holocaust endured,” she said. “It’s a day to share the stories of families forever affected by the Holocaust, a day to cherish the healing power of music, a day to preserve the legacy of those who perished, a day to celebrate the lives of those who survived, a day to renew our commitment to fighting hatred and indifference everyday. As we remember those who were murdered in the Holocaust tonight, we must never forget what can happen when ordinary people turn a blind eye to injustice. Each of us can make a difference, each of us must make a choice to get involved to combat hatred and promote human dignity wherever and whenever.”
Music had an integral role during the ceremony, as violinist Gary Levinson and pianist Baya Kakouberi played selections from Fritz Kreisler, Claude Debussy and Frederic Chopin. The musical interludes provided a moment of reflection and symbolized the lasting effects of the Holocaust around the world.
Following closing remarks by DHM/CET board Chair Steve Waldman, Niren sang “El Maleh Rachamim” and everyone recited the Mourner’s Kaddish together.
“Tonight, we remember the names, the pain felt by every victim of the Holocaust and also remember all of the survivors who are here with us and thank them for their will and strength,” Waldman said. “Those who suffered have gone on to rebuild their lives and I am in awe of the stories we heard tonight. We meet here determined that such a tragedy will never happen again, but the notions of hate are still very much among us. Let’s work together to stand up and speak against injustice and discrimination. Yom HaShoah is a day upon which the whole community can stand together and say ‘never again, not here, not anywhere.’”
Glauben shares story of Holocaust survival at A&M
By Caitlin Perrone
Bryan-College Station Eagle
When Alec Becker was in elementary school, he was asked to write a story about his hero.
The other students wrote about Batman or Superman, he said, but he wrote about his “Zayde,” the Yiddish word for grandfather, a Holocaust survivor.
Becker, a Texas A&M senior, sat in the front row in a conference room at the Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M University Wednesday night, April 9, where over 300 people filled the room to capacity to listen to his 87-year-old grandfather tell his story.
Max Glauben travels across the country as a motivational speaker and was brought to the A&M campus as a speaker for Texas A&M Hillel, which is highlighting a Holocaust survivor once per semester in a guest lecture series.
Even as Glauben spoke to the room for more than an hour about the horrors he faced in concentration camps in Poland and Germany, he would stop to crack a joke and see the faces in the room light up.
There are deep lines in his face from years of laughter, but you can also see the letters “KL” tattooed on the top of his right wrist. The letters mark the German word for concentration camp, “konzentrationslager,” a branded reminder of the nightmare he escaped.
“We were good, decent people, accused of being inferior,” he said to the silent room. “Or maybe not good enough to enjoy this world like everybody else.”
Glauben was born in Warsaw, Poland and was thrown headfirst into World War II when he was 10. He and his family lived in the area that would later become the Warsaw Ghetto, where they remained for almost three years.
Glauben’s father worked in a coal and wood yard, and Glauben would sneak outside of the ghetto to bring food back to his family. A family of eight was rationed 368 calories to split, he said, and an individual would be gifted with 184 calories if they were useful or knew somebody important.
In 1943, Glauben and his family were sent to the Maidanak concentration camp. They boarded a train and were given no food or water for five days.
When they arrived, the prisoners were separated into groups that could work and those that could not. Glauben began to follow his mother and younger brother into the line that would lead them to a concentration camp, but his father grabbed his arm at the last second.
“My dad said ‘stay with me,’ and grabbed my hand,” Glauben said. “He saved my life.”
Glauben and his father were taken into a labor camp, but he never saw his mother and brother again.
Over the next year, he moved between five concentration camps, where he worked in airplane factories and salt mines. His father died in the second camp, so Glauben became an orphan at 13.
In 1945, the boy was taken on a death march toward Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp in Germany, before the prisoners were liberated by American troops. He remembers leaving with seven other boys, and said he still keeps in contact with some to this day.
“One still calls me on Sundays when I’m watching the Cowboys play,” he said.
Glauben was placed in an orphanage in Germany, then emigrated to the United States and ultimately settled in Atlanta before he was drafted into the Army at age 18. He spent two years at Fort Hood and is a Korean War veteran.
This year for Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was April 28, and Glauben told his story in memory of the 11 million who died, including 6 million Jewish people. He spoke about the 11 million people who lost the chance to have a family. He talked about his seven grandchildren and motioned to Becker in the front row, and his sister, Delaney, who sat two chairs down and is also an A&M student. Both have also gone on death marches to the concentration camps in Poland.
“It’s a very humbling experience — it’s almost surreal watching him stand up here talking to 300 people in a room, a lot of them my friends and peers,” Becker said. “That’s 300 more people who have heard his story and can pass it on in remembrance of what he’s gone through.”
When a member of the audience stood to ask Glauben if he had forgiven the Germans, Glauben said it does not make sense to drink poison to hurt those who have harmed you. He smiled and tapped his head.
“This can decide whether you’re going to take the right way or the wrong way, how you’re going to be as a person, whether you’re going to be good or bad,” he said. “It’s up to each one of you to make the right decision. And if you do, I’ll guarantee, we will live in a peaceful world.”
This article first appeared in the Brian-College Station Eagle and is reprinted with permission.