THE life-affirming words of Holocaust survivors have always been “relevant and wise”, shared journalist and author Fiona Harari, but in the current climate of social upheaval and isolation, she has also found them “enormously comforting”.
Delivering a keynote address at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ (JBOD) Yom Hashoah commemoration, Harari recalled the inspirational messages shared by 18 survivors whom she interviewed for her book, We Are Here: Talking with Australia’s Oldest Holocaust Survivors.
“Some themes were often mentioned: being hopeful, having gratitude, valuing family, and finding joy in life’s little things … There was talk of resilience, of the importance of deep friendships and living a good life, and of course, the value of humour,” Harari remarked.
Opening the commemoration streamed live on Monday night were three child Holocaust survivors, Ana Deleon, Eva Reed and Lexie Keston, who spoke of the darkness they endured, and of the light upon liberation.
While six candles are normally lit at the commemoration to remember the six million murdered in the Shoah, this year, chair of JBOD’s Shoah Remembrance Committee, Danny Hochberg, lit a single candle on behalf of the survivors and others who could not gather in person.
JBOD president Lesli Berger assured that the Jewish community “will never stop commemorating the Holocaust, even in uncertain and restricted times”.
Reflecting the current climate, there was a powerful performance of Hatikvah pre-recorded from the homes of students in the 2020 Moriah College Tour Band.
After painting a grim picture of antisemitism in the world today, JBOD CEO Vic Alhadeff voiced grave concern about the situation in Australia where “we too are experiencing an alarming spike in antisemitism”.
Prior to JBOD’s commemoration, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian shared a message for Yom Hashoah, in which she commented, “We must strive to learn from the past, and to ensure that such atrocities are never again perpetrated.”
In a partnership with the Sydney Jewish Museum and March of the Living Australia, Shalom held Zikaron BaSalon on Tuesday, presenting survivor testimonies followed by a live discussion.
Meanwhile, We Are Here! – a project to promote human rights and social justice – compiled an educational video emphasising the significance of the Partisans’ Song in Holocaust commemorations.