Five Towns will mark Yom HaShoah


Seventy-two years ago to the date that Marion Blumenthal’s family — her father, Walter; her mother, Ruth; and Marion and her brother, Albert — were liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, the Hewlett resident, now Marion Lazan, will be the keynote speaker at the Five Towns Yom HaShoah event at Congregation Beth Sholom (390 Broadway, Lawrence) this Sunday night. 

Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 27th day of Nisan, marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The greater Five Towns Community Yom HaShoah commemoration, which begins at 7 pm on April 23 and involves 23 synagogues, will also feature: a reflection by Jake Levy, the fourth-generation descendant of a Holocaust survivor and an eighth-grader at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway Middle School; a video presentation; and singing by the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach’s fifth-grade choir, directed by Sandy Shmuely.

Having Lazan speak “really brings the message home,” said Nathaniel Rogoff, the event’s organizer along with Dana Frenkel. “Unfortunately, we won’t have the survivors with us much longer. It’s a lesson we can never forget as Jews, and in the Five Towns that’s the burden we carry.”

Eighty-five-year-old Lazan and her husband, Nathaniel, 82, travel the world, spreading the message that treating people with kindness and respect is the key to reducing intolerance, and reminding people about the mass killing of Jews and others by the Nazis from the late 1930s through 1945.

Her memoir, “Four Perfect Pebbles,” co-authored with Lila Perl, recounts the Blumenthal family story and the events that shaped her life, including the death of her father, from typhus, six weeks after he was liberated. The book is now in its 28th printing for the hard cover edition, and a 20th anniversary publication is slated for later this year.

“I always say that the important lesson of the dark period of our history is to be kind, good and respectful to each other,” Lazan said in a phone interview from Israel where she was celebrating Pesach with her family.

The Holocaust defined Lazan’s life, and as a survivor she has shared her story with people of all ages, ranging from elementary schoolchildren to adults.    

“I’m always told, ‘It’s amazing’ that it sounds like I told [my story] for the first time,” she said. “Audiences are not all the same. I spoke to University of Notre Dame freshmen and they [had] never heard such a story. All ages identify in some way, and the mission is so very important, as time is running out.”

Holocaust survivors are dying. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum defines survivors as “any persons, Jewish or non-Jewish, who were displaced, persecuted or discriminated against due to the racial, religious, ethnic, social and political policies of the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945.” This includes former concentration camp and prison inmates, ghetto residents and people who were refugees or were in hiding.

The museum’s Registry of Holocaust Survivors contains the names of more than 195,000 survivors and family members, and more are added daily. An increasing number of them, who registered their names and historical information over the past 15 years, are now dead.

Rabbi Kenneth Hain of Congregation Beth Sholom said he believes that remembering the Holocaust has never been more important due to the ever-increasing incidents of global violence, much of it directed against Jews or Israel. 

“It demands we take our enemies’ words seriously,” Rabbi Hain said. “It calls for world leaders to take Israel’s fear for its security and survival seriously. It calls for world leaders and non-Jews alike, who hope for a better world, to join together on Yom HaShoah and pledge just never forget — and now, more than ever, never again!”

Other Yom HaShoah events on LI

Several other events are set for Sunday night on Long Island, including one at 8 pm at the Young Island of West Hempstead (630 Hempstead Ave.) The YIWH will feature Dr. Rafael Medoff, whose articles are published periodically by The Jewish Star, discussing “The Voyage of the St. Louis, and its Implications for Today.”