May 16, 2007

Yom HaShoah

Lighting Candles of Remembrance

I wanted to let you all know about an extraordinary event that took place at the Museum on April 15th -- Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Commemoration Day). More than 1100 Holocaust survivors and their families braved one of the fiercest storms in modern memory to come to the Museum and take part in the Annual Gathering of Remembrance. I think my report on this remarkable event is a particularly fitting way to inaugurate this Blog since it represents the essence of our Museum.

I will include in this post an excerpt from my remarks at the Annual Gathering as well as some photographs from the event.
The cycle of the year has brought us to this place once again. Each of us has followed a different path, and each has brought our own history, our own memories, and our own hopes for the future. We have all come here to be together with one another, and, in some paradoxical way, we have each also come together to be alone. We have come together to be alone with our thoughts, our prayers, and some of us have come to be alone with the last distant memory of loved ones long gone.

We are drawn to come together this afternoon because we share a common determination – a determination like a stone that has been formed by the weight of sorrow and the pressure of memory – a determination that compels us to remember and to honor.

We remember and honor those whose names we know and those whose names have been lost. We remember and honor whole communities that were destroyed, a way of life that is no more. We remember and honor a vast potential for life and achievement that could not take root and flourish.

Annual Gathering of Remembrance Edmond J. Safra Hall

Ladies and gentlemen, the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, was created from that same determination. It is our mission each day to be a place of memory and honor, but on this day we feel the responsibility and the determination with the greatest devotion and commitment.

It is fitting then that we should, on this day, also dedicate a new exhibition in this Museum, an exhibition which has the power to change the way that the public thinks about Jews and the Holocaust. No one who visits this exhibition will ever again believe that Jews were passive victims. We believe that there is no more important way to serve the memory of those who perished or to honor those who survived than by showing the broad sweep and varied nature of Jewish defiance in the face of unprecedented assault. This exhibition is a labor of love and respect, and of memory and honor.

Ladies and gentlemen, as some of you may know, the idea of this Museum was born at a Yom Hashoah commemoration more than a quarter century ago. As Mayor Ed Koch watched the candle lighting ceremony, which we will all witness in a few minutes, he reflected that there would come a time when no survivors would be there to light candles or to tell their stories. He resolved at that moment to create in New York City a Holocaust memorial, and the Museum, as a living memorial, was the result....

Henry Kissinger addressing the Gathering

(photos by Melanie Einzig)

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