It was an emotional, bittersweet Teaneck Holocaust commemoration this year. Perhaps it was because long-time residents Arlene Duker, who lost her daughter to Arab terrorists many years ago, and Rabbi Johnny Krug, a son of survivors and dean of student life and welfare at Frisch High School, read the family names of those who were lost in the Shoah. Among them were Backenroth, Flanzbaum, Malca, Jacobowitz, Adler, Bacall, Goldberg, Greenwald, Morris, Kraar, Taffet, Lewkowitz, Weissler, Rosenberg, Hampel, Stern, and many other familiar names – all neighbors, all second generation, all families with decades-deep roots in Teaneck, tied together by the tragedies of the Shoah and the triumph of survival.
Teaneckers have played an important role in shaping Holocaust education since 1979, so it was appropriate for Deborah Lipstadt, the keynote speaker, to talk about the Adolf Eichmann trial and the politics surrounding it. Earlier in the evening, she told The Jewish Standard that the trial 50 years ago gave the world a universal view of the Shoah, because for the first time, survivors gave testimony. As a rule, even during the Nuremburg Trials, they did not. She said, “They told the story like it wasn’t told before. Survivors had spoken, but were not listened to until then – and it made a big difference. It is poignant to talk about it as so many of them are dying, but I want to give voice to the survivors.”
At the commemoration, she told the unvarnished story of Eichmann’s capture, explained a host of complicated issues surrounding the trial, and concluded by telling the audience about a Rwandan woman who met survivors at Yad Vashem and asked them to teach her. According to Lipstadt, she said, “I want people to listen to me the way they listen when Holocaust survivors speak.”
Zalmen Mlotek, artistic director of the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene, and his sons Elisha and Avram, also long time Teaneckers, sang Ghetto Tangos, songs from ghettos and forests, reflecting emotions from despair to resistance, from Nisht Kein Roszinkes, Nisht Kein Mandlen to the Partisaner Hymn.
Steve Fox, the Holocaust Commemoration Committee co-chair, asked for two minutes of silence for the victims in Toulouse, France. Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin read the town council’s proclamation, and Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger of Beth Abraham read a psalm.
The most emotional moments were those of the different candle lightings – the traditional multi-generational lighting, and something new: local high school students – third and fourth generation – who came to the stage with their own candles, and described the Shoah experience of the person for whom they were named. They were living proof of Jewish survival from generation to generation, and you could feel the audience inhale with pride.
Sadly, there were far fewer survivors participating, as many of them have died in recent years, or are homebound.
As ther numbers dwindle, Teaneckers at the commemoration seem to draw a little closer to one another as they, who are also aging, realize they are witness to the witnesses, and are the ones who authentically carry their parents’ memories. They are the torches of remembrance and teachers of the lessons learned from those terrible days.
The service concluded with the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish by Rabbi Yosef Adler, rabbi of Congregation Rinat Yisrael and head of school of the Torah Academy of Bergen County.