‘Never again’ urgent promise of Yom HaShoah commemoration

| May 30, 2024 | 0 Comments

Under a tent on the grassy expanse of Pan Pacific Park, next to the existing façade of Holocaust Museum LA and in front of the museum’s rising addition, an estimated 600 people gathered to commemorate the six million Jewish souls murdered in the Holocaust and also mark the 80th anniversary of the deportation of more than half a million Hungarian Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

HOLOCAUST MUSEUM LA CEO Beth Kean (second from left) with, from left, Mayor Karen Bass, City Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky and Holocaust Museum LA Board Chair Guy Lipa at Yom HaShoah commemoration May 5 in Pan Pacific Park.Jewish souls murdered in the Holocaust and also mark the 80th anniversary of the deportation of more than half a million Hungarian Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

On the 65th anniversary of the establishment of Yom HaShoah, a day of remembering the Holocaust (Shoah in Hebrew), and the 32nd annual commemoration hosted by Holocaust Museum LA, the pledge was, as always, “Never Again.”

“We are angry and we are scared”
This year “Never Again” felt particularly urgent, with many of the event speakers noting the worldwide rise in antisemitism, especially after the Hamas Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and the subsequent Israel-Hamas war underway in Gaza. As Katy Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles City Councilmember, said, “So much has happened in the year since we last gathered for this event, and in so many ways the world feels entirely different… The promise of ‘Never Again’ is not just about preventing another Holocaust, though it most certainly is about that. It’s about building a world where such atrocities can never happen to anyone anywhere.”

Guy Lipa, board chair of Holocaust Museum LA, acknowledged compassion for the loss of civilian lives in Gaza and continued, “Our community was devastated by the events of Oct. 7 and the glorification of Hamas and violence against Jews. We are angry, and we are scared.”

Holocaust Museum LA CEO Beth Kean, herself the granddaughter of survivors, warned, “The alarm bells are ringing loudly… More than six decades later, [Holocaust Museum LA’s] mission to commemorate those who perished, educate future generations about the Holocaust and inspire a more respectful, dignified and humane world remains more important than ever.”

Mayor Karen Bass, in her address, stated, “I want to reaffirm my commitment to the Jewish community. Its safety, dignity and freedom are integral to the health of this entire city.”

Israeli-American actor Mike Burstyn, as Master of Ceremonies, acknowledged the dignitaries in attendance on May 5, including the Consuls General of Lithuania, France, Spain, Germany, Ireland and Hungary and the Deputy Consuls General of the Czech Republic and Japan. Israel Bachar, the Deputy Consul General of Israel, spoke and noted that, “Since Oct. 7, antisemitism has increased by 400 percent in America,” and he vowed that Israel’s enemies “will not succeed to destroy our national home ever.”

Other notable guests in the tent were Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Hamilton, County Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Holly Mitchell, Los Angeles City Attorney Heidi Feldstein Soto, California Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur, President of Santa Monica College Kathryn Elaine Jeffery, former City Councilmember Paul Koretz and former County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

“Let us be morally clear”
The keynote speaker was Wilshire Boulevard Temple Senior Rabbi Steve Leder, whose powerful speech began with recounting acts of brutality against Jews throughout the ages, including “1.5 million children turned into smoke [in the Holocaust].” He then addressed head-on the controversial current situation in Gaza. “Let us be morally clear. There is a difference between murder and killing. Hamas murders Jews. And murder forces us to kill. Even when innocent people die in the process, they are not innocent victims of Israeli aggression. They are the victims of the terrorists’ total disregard for life itself…”

He continued, “To be a Jew is never to lose hope for a beautiful end to the oldest of stories.”

Maestro Conlon

The bitter pill of the situation in Israel, Gaza and the world was made sweeter with a musical interlude conducted by Maestro James Conlon, music director of the Los Angeles Opera and artistic director of the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School. The latter program promotes music by composers whose careers were affected by the Nazis. Conlon conducted LA Opera musicians in “Maienblumen Blühten Überall,” a poem by Richard Dehmel with music by Alexander Zemlinsky, an Austrian composer who was forced into exile by the Nazis in 1938.

Fewer and fewer people are left to testify about their personal experiences of the Holocaust, but an amazing group of about a dozen Holocaust survivors was there at Pan Pacific Park. Those from Hungary were among guests invited to participate in a candle-lighting ceremony. One of them was 96-year-old Mary Bauer, who was born in Hungary and survived Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, the Death March and Ravensbrück concentration camp.

After the war, when Bauer reached the United States, she remembered what people said to her in the camps. “‘If you survive, tell the world about us.’ Therefore I keep talking and teaching about what prejudice and hate mean… Everyone born on this planet, regardless of skin color, ethnicity, or religious belief, they should have the right to live a free life of their choosing. Museums like this must stand as reminders of what happens when we hate each other.”

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