By Brandon Bosworth, Assistant Editor, Ho`okele
A Holocaust Days of Remembrance service was held April 28 at the Aloha Jewish Chapel, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. This year, Holocaust remembrance week is April 27 to May 4, and Holocaust Remembrance Day was April 28.
Capt. Sal Aguilera, Navy Region Hawaii/ Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific chaplain, opened the ceremony and led the invocation.
“On this day, we gather to remember the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany in World War II,” he said during his opening remarks.
After Aguilera’s invocation, Cantor Ken Aronowitz of Temple Emanuel sang Psalm 121, followed by volunteers reading aloud relevant historic texts about the Holocaust and lighting six memorial candles.
“We now light six candles in memory of the six million,” said Dr. Dan Bender, lay leader at the chapel. “As we light these candles, we commit ourselves to building a world in which we take responsibility for one another. In this world, there is no room for hatred or violence.”
Bender then introduced the event’s guest speaker, Seymour Kazimirski. Kazimirski has been speaking to schools and other organizations about the Holocaust for more than 40 years.
“Many people ask me why I still talk about the Holocaust after all these years,” he said. “For me, it’s all about the youth. The youth are the critical part of education.”
Kazimirski said he believes in making the Holocaust something that people-especially young people-can relate to emotionally and not just “a paragraph in a schoolbook saying 6 million people were killed.”
“When I speak at schools, I ask, ‘How many of you live with your parents?’” he said. “Then I ask, ‘How many of you have brothers or sisters? Grandparents? Aunts and uncles?’ Then I say, ‘Imagine they are all dead. You have no one.’ The classroom becomes so quiet you can hear a pin drop.”
Kazimirski’s mother, Ann, survived the Holocaust, but more than 60 of her relatives did not. In her book, “Witness To Horror,” Ann Kazimirski wrote of seeing her own mother lined up against a wall and shot. “I will never forget the image of the red blood staining the white snow,” she wrote. “I saw my beloved mother die and there was nothing I could do.”
For Kazimirski, reaching out to young people is especially important because they are the ones who ” must stand up against bigotry.”
“Anti-Jew, anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-gay … are really anti-people,” he said. “We must be tolerant of all people and accept them for who they are. Don’t think for a moment you are better than them.”
After he finished speaking, Kazimirski was presented with a letter of appreciation by Capt. Jeffrey James, commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
The service concluded with Aronowitz singing the funeral prayer, “El male rachamim,” a recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish, and some final thoughts from Bender.
“The Holocaust reminds us of the fragility of democracy and the need for citizens to be both well-informed and vigilant about the preservation of democratic ideals,” Bender said.
“An engaged citizenry that embraces the power of the individual to make a difference is the frontline defense for strong, just societies. What we do-or choose not to do-matters.”