A ceremony was held on 1 May 2019 at the Auckland Hebrew Congregation to mark Yom HaShoah, (Holocaust Memorial Day) - it was very well attended. The names of family members who had perished in the Holocaust were projected throughout the ceremony, providing a backdrop to the proceedings, a constant reminder of the personal loss for many members of the Jewish community.
Descendants of survivors and victims of the Holocaust gave poetry readings and shared stories focussed on the theme, ‘Keeping Judaism alive during the Shoah’. Two Shadows of Shoah stories were also presented. Meaningful prayers were interspersed with musical items and memorial candles were lit by various community representatives, and survivors and second and third generations.
Guest of honour, Hon. Jenny Salesa, Minister for Ethnic Communities, gave a heartfelt speech, acknowledging the powerful stories that had been seen and heard.
In a moving presentation, Tanya Hart shared for the first time the story of her father Andrie Hart, a child survivor from Belgium, whose family decided in 1948 to move as far as possible from Europe and made their way to New Zealand.
Rob Berg, president of the Zionist Federation gave a stirring address, highlighting the concerns over rising antisemitism. Throughout the evening, the events of recent times were referenced; the attacks on Muslims in Christchurch, Christians in Sri Lanka and Jews in Poway, San Diego. Although there was a sense that people of faith are living in troubling times, messages of hope were also conveyed. The most poignant came from a young participant of the March of the Living 2018. Joshua Korpus spoke of the surreal experience of visiting camps in Europe, and although he felt the weight and gravity of the atrocities perpetrated on his people, he had an epiphany upon hearing the story of a young Jewish couple who decided to get married in the camp. He was struck by that one act, that in spite of all that had happened, they still had hope.