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Congregations will remember Holocaust, hear survivor stories

SHARON - Dina Rosenbaum’s mother, Etta, survived the Holocaust by hiding in a hollow tree and a hole in the ground when Nazis searched the farm of the Christian family that sheltered her in Poland.

Rosenbaum’s father, Max, fled his burning Polish village and made his way to the woods of Russia, where he fought with the partisans and lost his left hand blowing up train tracks to cut off the German army’s supplies.

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Both her parents made it to America - and taught Rosenbaum never to forget their stories, or those of the millions who died in the Nazi death camps. So for the past 15 years, she has organized a local Holocaust remembrance event, at first with just her temple in Sharon and eventually expanding to a large commemoration in several communities.

This year’s Day of Remembering the Holocaust and the Bravery is sponsored by nine congregations and synagogues from Sharon, Stoughton, Canton, Easton, Norwood, and Brockton, and will take place April 18 at 7 p.m. at Temple Beth Abraham in Canton. Rosenbaum expects about 300 people to attend.

Rabbi Lawrence Silverman also anticipates a crowd at Plymouth’s Holocaust remembrance scheduled for April 24, at 7:30 p.m. in Congregation Beth Jacob’s community center at 25 ½ Court St.

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The event will be preceded by a 6:45 p.m. ceremony at the Holocaust memorial monument in Beth Jacob Cemetery, which is in the town’s Vine Hills Cemetery off Route 44.

Plymouth has been holding a communitywide Holocaust observance since 1989, Silverman said; this year’s is sponsored by Beth Jacob, the Plymouth Area Interfaith Clergy Association, and the town’s No Place For Hate Committee. The guest speaker, Lilliane Birch, will tell how her mother survived the Auschwitz concentration camp.

“In a way, the most important piece of this is having a survivor or a witness speak because this is the last generation that will be able to hear survivors,’’ Silverman said. “In a world where Holocaust denial is practiced by some, it is important for people to hear the story from the lips of people who experienced it and to understand the truth of the story and the horror.’’

Silverman said it is also significant that the event is nondenominational. “It’s important socially and politically that people don’t see the Holocaust as a specifically Jewish issue,’’ he said.

Rosenbaum said the event in Canton also will include testimony about a mother’s survival. Sharon resident Orna Stein, will tell how her mother, now 87, was taken from Hungary to a forced labor camp and finally made her way to Israel, where she still lives.

“I think it’s a big miracle that she survived,’’ Stein said.

Writer Susan Kushner Resnick, another Sharon resident, will talk about her friend Aron Lieb, the subject of her latest book, “You Saved Me, Too: What a Holocaust Survivor Taught Me About Living, Dying, Loving, Fighting, and Swearing in Yiddish.’’

Lieb, who died last year at age 91, lived through slave labor camps and harrowing stays in Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Dachau concentration camps before settling in the Boston area.

“I talked to him a lot about why he survived,’’ Resnick said. “Sometimes he would say luck, sometimes he would say God, and sometimes he would say he didn’t believe in God. He didn’t really know why he survived.’’

The Canton event also will include music and readings from high school students and a small service, as well as a display of collages made of canceled postage stamps by students as part of the Foxborough Regional Charter School’s Holocaust Stamps Project.

The project’s goal is to collect 11 million stamps - one for each person killed by the Nazis - and use them in artwork depicting some aspect of the Holocaust, according to teacher Charlotte Sheer.

She said the group recently counted its one millionth stamp. (More details on the project and how to send stamps is available www.foxboroughrcs.org/students-families/student-life).

During the observance, individuals can light candles in memory of Holocaust victims, Rosenbaum said. “I’m amazed at how many people come out specifically to read a name of a family member who was killed. And we want to encourage people to come even if they don’t have a family member,’’ she said.

Rosenbaum said her parents lost almost all of their family to the Holocaust and “the greatest accomplishment for them is that they have created family,’’ with their children and seven grandchildren.

She said the Holocaust remembrance event builds on that need to preserve families.

“I like the fact that it’s an event that brings together community [and] congregations,’’ she said. “We’re all working to preserve the memory and give survivors a voice, to learn the different stories. To me, that’s a big piece of what was lost [in the Holocaust] - all the culture and history and tradition, in addition, of course, to all those families.’’

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.
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