This year's Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service, the 36th annual event, saw community members join in the moment and in memory.
The traditional March of Remembrance began in Grove Park and ended at Seton Hall. Local resident Larry Pantirer, son of the late Murray Pantirer, a Schindler’s List survivor of the Holocaust, is this year’s featured speaker.
Maplewood resident Jim Ferruggiaro, who has co-chaired the organizing committee for this event since 2009, commented, “It is especially significant that Seton Hall is hosting this year’s service for the first time in our 36th year. Our program was founded by the late Sister Rose Thering of Seton Hall University along with Congregation Beth-El Rabbi Emeritus Jehiel Orenstein and the late Max Randall, a member of South Mountain B’nai B’rith. Ours was the first interfaith Holocaust remembrance event established in New Jersey.”
Also co-chairing the committee are Beth Randall Branigan, daughter of Max Randall and Eve Morawski, daughter of Polish Catholic Holocaust survivors, and whose father Michael was a leader of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
The theme of this year’s art exhibit is “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.” Sixth, seventh and eighth grade students participated in creating art and poetry. The sixth grade artists painted butterflies and wrote poems for a large mural. Seventh graders drew self-portraits in charcoal with woven barbed wire, and eighth grade artists created figurative clay sculptures.
Members of the clergy from nearly 20 Jewish, Catholic and Protestant houses of worship in the South Orange/Maplewood community offered prayers and hymns at the service.
Area survivors of the Holocaust, most of whom were children or adolescents during the second World War, lit 11 candles to represent the 11 million men, women and children – including six million Jews and five million Polish Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Slavs, Roma (gypsies), homosexuals, disabled children and adults and political dissidents – who were brutally murdered during the Holocaust. Grandchildren of survivors Norbert and Greta Bikales lit 18 candles signifying “Chai” or Life, according to Hebrew mystical tradition.
This year, the Remembrance Service committee honored long-time member Oscar Lax with the Sister Rose Thering Holocaust Education Award for his commitment to Sister Rose’s belief that education will make the world a more tolerant place.