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‘Never Again’ Means More at This Year’s Holocaust Survivor Day

The klezmer band struck up a happy tune, and people who survived the Holocaust during World War II left their seats and began to dance. That embodies the spirit of Holocaust Survivor Day, to celebrate the lives of the survivors.

Tuesday marked the third time it was celebrated in the Philadelphia area. Gov. Josh Shapiro and former Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney officially recognized Holocaust Survivor Day last year. About 85 Holocaust survivors came to the Holocaust Survivor Day event at Keneseth Israel [K.I.] in Elkins Park.

Jason Holtzman, Jewish Federation director of the Jewish Community Relations Council spoke. His paternal grandparents, Sally and Herman Holtzman, survived the Holocaust along with two aunts.

Sally Holtzman lived through the war by hiding with her family in a barn in Poland.  When Nazi soldiers set her family’s home on fire, she ran back into the burning house and saved her baby sister. Herman Holtzman survived Auschwitz, the infamous death camp.

His grandparents met each other in a displaced persons camp after the war, eventually moving to Philadelphia.

Participants dance at the Holocaust Survivor Day event at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel on June 4, 2024.


“Despite the unimaginable horrors they endured, they exemplified resilience and lived each day with profound happiness,” said Holtzman. “As a descendent of Holocaust survivors, I have a deep appreciation for life, a sentiment shared by many second and third-generation survivors.”

Before the Holocaust, Poland was home to 3.3 million Jews, he said. Afterward, only 300,000 remained.

“We must remain vigilant and committed to educating future generations about the horrors of the past to ensure they are never repeated,” said Holtzman.

That’s the mission of Chuck Feldman, president of the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center [HAMEC], which is also located at K.I. HAMEC has a program to send survivors to visit schools, either in person or through Zoom. It reached 160 schools this year and survivors have told their stories in thousands of schools over the years.

“We have a saying, people will talk about the Holocaust and say, ‘Never again.’ With respect to education, we say, ‘Never enough.’”

Daniel Goldsmith, 92, attended the luncheon. Goldsmith, who lived in Belgium at the time of the Holocaust, had spoken with DVJournal before. Goldsmith, who was a child at the time, survived with the help of Catholic nuns and priests.

Jason Holtzman

Feldman said it amazes him that Pennsylvania does not have mandatory Holocaust education. However, he noted a survey showed Pennsylvania millennials know more about the Holocaust than students in states where it is a mandatory part of the curriculum: New Jersey, New York, California, Florida, and Illinois.

State Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Richboro) and Joe Hogan (R-Penndel) introduced a bill that would require the Department of Education to write curriculum guidelines for schools offering Holocaust and genocide instruction. It would also require transparency so parents know what their children are learning. The bill is still in committee.

“You are an inspiration to us all,” Paula Goldstein, president of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia [JFCS], told the survivors.

“Since Oct. 7 events too devastating to comprehend are unfolding in our world and our community,” she said.  They are “living proof of that hope and resilience,” she said.

Dr. Marcy Gringlas, cofounder with her husband, Joel Greenberg, of the Seed the Dream Foundation, brought her mother, Reli Gringlas, a Holocaust survivor, to the event.

Marcy Gringlas said she deeply misses her late father, who survived Auschwitz.

“In 2021, Seed the Dream Foundation worked with our global partners to establish a special day to honor you, our cherished Holocaust Survivors,” she said. “We wanted to celebrate and honor your courage and your resilience, and the remarkable lives that you have built. Now in its fourth year, Holocaust Survivor Day events are happening around the world. Seed the Dream Foundation is proud to be supporting events in 26 communities here in the United States.”

Jonathan Ornstein with the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, Poland came up with the idea for the Holocaust Survivor Day, along with Rabbi Michael Berenbaum, after they both identified the need for a day to focus on the life and resilience of survivors. The idea was a day survivors wouldn’t have to share with the memory and tragedies of the Holocaust.

Partners for Tuesday’s event included 3G Philly, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors Association, Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center, Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, and Sons & Daughters of Holocaust Survivors.

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