In late 2007, I joined the Yom HaShoah Committee (Holocaust Remembrance Day), at Congregation Shaarei Torah. Nine members were survivors, remarkable for a tiny synagogue in Southern California. Even more extraordinary was the Shoah Torah, saved after the Kristal Nacht desecration of synagogues and their contents. The Torah was hidden, wrapped around the body of a Jew as he fled, then concealed within the false bottom of a box shipped to Argentina. When the family emigrated to Los Angels, they brought the Torah with them from South America. They became members of Congregation Shaarei Torah, and finally the Torah found its place of honor in our Ark.
The theme for 2008 was "Righteous Gentiles," non-Jews who helped a Jew survive in some way. The story of Anne Frank and her family being hidden in an attic for two years is well known. But as Hava Ben-Zvi so movingly described in recounting her own story, help came in many small ways....information that the Gestopo were coming, some much-needed food and shelter for a night, or simply pointing out the best direction to keep out of danger.
All of Shaarei Torah's survivors in fact, had stories of righteous gentiles who helped them personally, a parent, or their entire family. Every incident saved lives.
With many years of theater training, I immediately saw how to put the stories together to create the 2008 Yom HaShoah program. As the audience arrived, Yiddish music from the 1930's played quietly. The program consisted of each survivor's story, many of which I scribed as they had never been written down. I edited those which had, wrote interludes and added the religious ceremony after the readings. The ceremony began with each survivor placing a yellow rose into a vase followed by 6 children who lit a memorial candle, one for each million Jews who perished. I created a script with stage directions, then directed the rehearsals.
Here is the script along with the formal program given to members of the congregation and guests who attended. The stained glass windows were in Shaarei Torah's sanctuary.
We must never forget...
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