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MAY 4 – 5 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Rememberance Day of the Whirlwind – Tornado – Dust Devil – Dragon Fire – Yad Vashem

April 29, 2016

What we have lost  –  our humanity  on all sides there is a voracious lack of concern for our neighbors, our brothers, our sisters, our spirits, our connections, our presence as sacred testimony to the light of  one another in each other, we share a common bond that stretches across the horizon from end to end of humanity as one blessing of life giving force forged in our insemination as beings, creative yearning living breathing spirits of an eternal flame.


MAY 4 – 5 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Rememberance Day of the Whirlwind – Tornado – Dust Devil – Dragon Fire – Yad Vashem


Yad Vashem:  

The Righteous Among The Nations


In early years, trees were planted by some of the Righteous or their families on the Mount of Remembrance. Today their names are engraved on the walls of the Garden of the Righteous.

The Avenue of the Righteous

The Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations was inaugurated in 1962. Trees, symbolic of the renewal of life, have been planted in and around the Yad Vashem site, in honor of those non-Jews who acted according to the noblest principles of humanity by risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Plaques adjacent to each tree record the names of those being honored along with their country of residence during the war.

  • Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations
  • Planting of tree Harald and Dorothee Pelchau, Germany
  • Planting of tree in honor of Father Amedee Folliet France
  • Planting of tree in honor of Salahattin Ulkumen, Turkey
  • Planting of tree in honor of Varian Fry, USA
  • Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations

The Garden of the Righteous

The Garden of the Righteous is situated next to the Valley of the Communities. The names of the Righteous Among the Nations – non-Jews who acted according to the noblest principles of humanity by risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust – are engraved on the walls of honor. Some rescuers will forever remain anonymous.

Virtual Tour of the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations

  • Garden of the Righteous
  • Garden of the Righteous

The Memorial of the Anonymous Rescuer

The Memorial of the Anonymous Rescuer

The Memorial of the Anonymous Rescuer

In view of the dangers to Jews and their rescuers, rescue was conducted clandestinely. It is therefore sometimes difficult to find traces of rescue attempts; the information is scant and sometimes the identity of the rescuer remains unknown. Some rescuers were discovered and killed with the Jews they were protecting, leaving no evidence of the rescue attempt; in other cases no one came forward to report the case. In the absence of witnesses, some of these courageous deeds will forever remain unknown.

Wishing to honor these unknown heroes, Yad Vashem erected a monument to the anonymous rescuer in the Avenue of the Righteous.

The following letter was written by Genja Klepfisz-Jodzka to Miss Bronja, a Polish woman, to whose care she had entrusted her seven-year-old son, Michael.

27 September 1943Dear Miss Bronja,

It is so hard for me to write to you. Lately terrible things have been happening to me. Life is too cruel. When you were here, Miss Bronja, I couldn’t express my feelings. I beg you, look after my son; be a mother to him.

I am afraid that he will catch a cold – he is so frail and vulnerable. My dear Bronja, give him everything with all your heart and I will be grateful to you until the end of my days.

He is so clever and he has a good heart. I am sure that you can find it in your heart to love him. Every day I pray to God that on account of my suffering you will be happy in the future, that you will not have to be separated from your own children, that you will be able to love them and look after them as a mother. Can you understand this torture?

Bronja, this letter is a heartfelt cry to look after my boy. Michael should eat as much as he can for who knows what is to come? He must be strong and able to endure great suffering. Please make sure that he dresses warmly and that he also wears socks. I cannot write any more, my tears have all dried up. May God watch over you both.

Parting from her son proved too painful, and after a certain time Genja decided to take Michael back. Mother and son tried to escape to Vienna, but they were caught and deported to Auschwitz in April 1944. Both perished. The letter was donated to Yad Vashem by Genja’s sister, but nothing is known about Miss Bronja, except her first name. She is one of the anonymous rescuers.

The letter was read as part of the memorial ceremony held on the occasion of the visit of Pope John Paul II at Yad Vashem, 23 March 2000.

In addition there are other related memorial sites at Yad Vashem dedicated to rescuers or rescue events


Read about our honorees:

Honoring the Memory of Joachim Alexopoulos, Greek Orthodox Bishop of Volos
Sunday, May 22

On Sunday afternoon, May 22, at 4:00 pm, Adas Israel Congregation will honor the memory of His Eminence, Joachim Alexopoulos (1873–1959), Greek Orthodox Bishop of Volos. His courage and faith during World War II were little known until his posthumous recognition in 1997 by the State of Israel, for saving the lives of 700 people who were hidden by the residents of the villages of Mount Pelion. When the Nazis asked him to hand over the list of Jewish residents, he refused, answering, “I am a Jew.” Honored as “Righteous Among the Nations,” Father Alexopoulos’s name is inscribed in the Holocaust Museum here in Washington and entered on the Righteous Honor Wall at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem



GOR stone

The Garden of the Righteous Program was initiated in 1992 by Rabbi Jeffrey A. Wohlberg to honor non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The honor takes the form of the dedicating a plaque each year on the Sunday morning closest to Yom HaShoah, dedicated to a particular “Righteous Gentile” in an area near the front of the synagogue known as The Garden of the Righteous. The honoree or, if the honoree is deceased a representative of the honoree’s family or country, receives an engraved memento of the occasion. When possible, the rescued family member or descendent participates in the ceremony.

The Garden of the Righteous Program, which has become an annual event, was intended to present a different type of public undertaking through which to commemorate the Holocaust. The program has a dual purpose: to teach and to honor. The teaching component is intended to show children and adults that the lesson of the Holocaust is not only one of sadness, but also a lesson in courage, honor, compassion, and heroism. It emphasizes that during the Holocaust there were righteous non-Jews who actually helped, rather than hurt, Jews. The other component is designed bring to the Synagogue a non-Jew who risked his or her life to save Jews. This program in our nation’s capital is an adaptation of The Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Israel’s capital. The use of a garden, specifically the planting of a tree to honor the recipient selected each year, was intended to symbolize the choice of life in the face of death.

As Rabbi Wohlberg explains in a letter to our Religious School families:
“Even now it is difficult to know how best to remember the Holocaust. It is especially difficult to know how to teach it to children in a way that will give them strength and so that the Holocaust will be appropriately remembered. One special element in that education process is teaching about the non-Jews who risked their lives and dared to try to save Jews during World War II. Yad Vashem, the Memorial Museum and Archives to the Six Million in Jerusalem, has identified 50,000 such “righteous gentiles”, many of whom it has recognized by planting trees in their honor in a Garden of the Righteous. I believe that it is crucial that we do the same. It is vital that children learn not only about the bad things which have happened in history, but that they be taught about those who exemplify courage, compassion, humaneness and sensitivity so that they will be moved to follow those examples. The stories of these extraordinary people are an important element in building character, teaching ethics and in motivating moral responsibility.”

Adas Israel Garden of the Righteous garden, designed and installed by John Harrison of Yard Art Design, was generously donated by Judy and Saul Strauch in memory of Judy’s mother, Beatrice Lachman, in memory of her father, Irving Lachman and in memory of Saul’s sister, Estelle Strauch.


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Aristides de Sousa Mendes

Aristides de Sousa Mendes (1885-1954) was an unlikely hero.  Born into an aristocratic family, he attended a prestigious university and received a degree in law.  After a few years of teaching, he went into the diplomatic corps. Mendes served in many countries, including the United States, Brazil, Zanzibar, Spain and Belgium. Mendes was the Portuguese Consul-General in Bordeaux, France, when the Germans invaded in 1940.  Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to the French-Spanish border hoping to get Portuguese transit visas for passage through Spain to neutral Portugal. Portugal’s fascist dictator, Antonio Salazar, ordered his embassies and diplomats not to issue visas to those seeking temporary shelter in Portugal, especially the Jews. Sousa Mendes, a devout Christian, saw the terrible plight of the refugees.  When he received a delegation of refugees at the consulate headed by Rabbi Haim Kruger, Mendes decided to disobey his government’s explicit instruction and promised transit visas to everyone in need.  In June 1940, Mendes issued some 30,000 visas, including about 10,000 to Jews.  This heroic feat was characterized by renowned Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer as “perhaps the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust.”  For his actions, the Portuguese government fired Mendes and he never worked again.  Aristides de Sousa Mendes died in poverty in Lisbon on April 3, 1954. On October 18, 1966, Aristides de Sousa Mendes was posthumously honored by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations.”  

GOR 20142014
Alicja Szczepaniak Schnepf & Natalia Szczepaniak
On Sunday morning, April 27, 2014 at 10am, Adas Israel Congregation honored Mrs. Alicja Schnepf Szczepaniak and Natalia Szczepaniak from Poland (mother and grandmother of the current U.S. Polish Ambassador). Alicja Szczepaniak Schnepf, along with her younger sister and her mother took in several Jewish families in their one-bedroom apartment, often deceiving their neighbors while risking their own lives.  Frequently Mrs. Schnepf had to provide distractions for the German authorities or cover-up for noises or other signs of the many people living in their apartment.  Alicja Schnepf was honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations on November 13, 1991.


Irena Sendler

Mrs. Sendler, a Roman Catholic social worker, who died at the age of 98, risked her life and survived torture to help save thousands of Jewish children in Poland.  By 1942, when the deadly intentions of the Nazis had become clear, Sendler joined a Polish underground organization, Zegota.  Working with a group of volunteers, the majority of them women, they began rescuing Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto.  The children were given false identities and placed with Catholic families, in orphanages and convents.  In the hope of later reuniting the children with their birth parents, Sendler wrote the children’s names and new identities and addresses in code, on slips of paper, and buried them in jars in a neighbor’s back yard.  That hope never came true; most of the parents died in concentration camps. In 1965 Irena Sendler was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations,”  was made an honorary citizen of Israel in 1991 and in 2003 was awarded Poland’s highest distinction, the Order of White Eagle.Irena Sendler’s achievements went largely unnoticed for many years until the story was uncovered in 1999 by four young students from Kansas who wrote a play titled, “Life in a Jar”, about the heroic actions of Irena Sendler.  Adas Israel was honored to host a performance of “Life in a Jar” as part of our Garden of the Righteous ceremony.    

Dr. Tina Strobos

Dr. Strobos, who saved Jews during the Holocaust, was born in Amsterdam in 1920 and was a medical student there when the Germans invaded Holland in May 1940. From the first days of the Nazi invasion, Dr. Strobos and her family, who were not Jewish, became actively involved in hiding Jews, providing them food, shelter, and forged documents. Strobos, together with her mother and grandmother, sheltered over 100 Jewish refugees—four or five at a time—at their boarding house, which was only a ten-minute walk from Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam.

José Arturo Castellanos

 José Arturo Castellanos, a diplomat from El Salvador, was this year’s Garden of the Righteous honoree. Mr. Castellanos was El Salvador’s consul in Geneva during the war, when he approved about 40,000 passports and birth certificates for Jews from different countries so they would not be caught by the Nazis and sent to death camps. José Arturo Castellanos, who died in 1977 at age 83, was honored on July 15, 2010 by the Embassy of El Salvador in Israel and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum as a “Righteous Gentile” for saving thousands of Jews during World War II. See Channel 9’s coverage of this event.

Mr. Hiram Bingham

Our 19th Garden of the Righteous Honoree is Mr. Hiram (Harry) Bingham, IV of The United States. Mr. Bingham entered the US diplomatic service and in 1939 was posted to Marseilles, France as American Vice-Consul. He found the policy of not granting visas to Jews immoral and, risking his career, did all in his power to undermine it. In defiance of his bosses in Washington, he granted over 2,500 US visas to Jewish and other refugees, including the artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst and the family of the writer Thomas Mann. He also sheltered Jews in his Marseilles home and obtained forged identity papers to help Jews in their dangerous journeys across Europe. He worked with the French underground to smuggle Jews out of France into Spain or across the Mediterranean and even contributed to their expenses out of his own pocket.

In 1941, Washington lost patience with him and he was sent to Argentina, where later he continued to annoy his superiors by reporting on the movements of Nazis there. Eventually, he was forced out of the American diplomatic service completely. He died almost penniless in 1988.
Little was known of his extraordinary activities until one of his children found some letters in his belongings after his death. He has now been honored by many groups and organizations including the United Nations and the State of Israel, but for over fifty years, the U.S. State Department resisted any attempt to honor Bingham. After his death, he has been officially recognized as a hero and in 2002 Secretary of State Colin Powell gave a posthumous award for “constructive dissent” to Hiram Bingham IV.

Father Bruno (Henri Reynders) and Mr. Georges Ranson 

Our 18th honorees were Mr. Georges Ranson and Father Bruno (Henri Reynders) of Belgium.
Industrialist and resistance fighter Georges Ranson (pictured far left) provided jobs, false identification cards and a place to live in his factory for Jews during the German occupation of Belgium. He also took Jewish children, one of whom was Flora Singer, z”l (a resident of Potomac, MD), to an orphanage where they made contact with Father Bruno. 

Father Bruno, a Benedictine Monk, presided over the lives of between 300 and 400 Jews, most of them children. For months after the war Father Bruno searched for surviving parents to reconnect them with their children who had been under his care.
Both Georges Ranson and Father Bruno have been recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations.” Georgette Ranson and Yves Pierseaux (Ranson’s daughter and grandson) will be here to represent him.

Khaled Abdul-Wahab

Our 17th honoree, Khaled Abdul-Wahab (1911-1997) of Tunisia, is likely to become the first Arab honored as a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem. In 1942, the Germans arrived in Mahdia, Tunisia and expelled Jewish families from their homes in order to transform them into barracks. Mr. Abdul-Wahab determined that he would save the Boukris and Ussan families. Making many trips throughout the night, Abdul-Wahab managed to move the entire family to his farm. The Boukris’ left the farm once a week to visit a Jewish owned farm four miles away. Thus according to the testimony, Abdul-Wahad rescued two-dozen Jews. Abdul-Wahab visited the Boukris and the Ussan families almost every day while they remained on the farm. They lived there for four months before the British took Mahdia in April 1943.

Heinz Drossel
Honoring Heinz Drossel of Germany.  Heinz Drossel, Adas Israel’s 16th Garden of the Righteous Honoree, was a German officer during WWII. The son of ardent anti-Nazis, Mr. Drossel was forced to serve in the German army but continued to refuse to join the Nazi party. Mr. Drossel fought first in the campaign against France in 1940, then from 1941 to 1945 against Russia. In the summer of 1941 Heinz Drossel’s unit captured a Russian officer. His commander told him to take the prisoner back to the battalion where Mr. Drossel knew that the prisoner would be shot; rather, he took the prisoner in the opposite direction. Mr. Drossel, who speaks Russian, urged the officer to go into the woods, sending him off towards the Russian troops. While on leave in 1942, Mr. Drossel was walking through Berlin when he noticed a woman by the railing of a bridge who, seeing his uniform, grew increasingly agitated at his approach. As she tried to leap from the bridge, Mr. Drossel caught her and soon discovered that she was Jewish. He calmed the woman, took her to his apartment, and gave her money so that she could find a safe place to stay. In 1945 Mr. Drossel was later reunited with this women, Marianne, and they married in 1946. Also in 1945, Mr. Drossel helped four of his neighbors who had been living with forged papers (Ernst and Margot Fontheim, and Jack and Lucie Hass) to find shelter when they were in immediate danger of being reported to the authorities. The Gestapo came to look for them the day after they relocated. In May 2000, Yad Vashem honored Mr. Drossel, as did the German government in 2001, awarding him its highest civilian medal. Mr. Drossel, of blessed memory, passed away in April of 2008.

Mr. Jaap Penraat

Our 2006 honoree, Mr. Jaap Penraat, grew up in Amsterdam, Holland and became active in the underground there during the war.  After the Nazis invaded Holland, Mr. Penraat and his friends began forging identification documents, which helped hundreds of Jews evade arrest. Because of his counterfeiting activities, Mr. Penraat was jailed for two months. Upon being released, he learned that Dutch Jews were being deported to concentration camps. 

Mr. Penraat, an architect by training, forged a letter from a German construction company authorizing him to bring workers to France to help build bunkers on the Atlantic Wall.  He also created fake travel permits and non-Jewish ID cards.  After “hiring” Jews to work on the project, Mr. Penraat and his friends began transporting them to France, where they would link up with members of the underground who would take them into neutral Spain.  In this manner between 1943 and 1944, Mr. Penraat rescued 406 Jews.

The Dutch government awarded Jaap Penraat a war pension in 1974 and honored him again in 1981 with the Cross of Resistance.  On June 11, 1998, at a ceremony at the Israeli Consulate in New York, Mr. Penraat was awarded the designation Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.  His name is engraved on the Honor Wall in Yad Vashem’s Garden of the Righteous in Jerusalem.  In 2000, Mr. Penraat’s story became the subject of a children’s book, Forging Freedom: A True Story of Heroism During the Holocaust.  The book was written and illustrated by Mr. Penraat’s friend and neighbor, Hudson Talbott. Mr. Penraat, of blessed memory, passed away in June of 2006.

Dr. Magdelena Stroe

Dr. Magdelena Stroe of Romania was the 2005 Garden of the Righteous Honoree. Participating in the ceremony were representatives of the Romanian and Israeli Embassies, the Adas Israel Clergy, and children from our Melvin Gelman Religious School. Dr. Stroe was honored by Yad Vashem through the Embassy of Israel in Bucharest which granted her the title “The Righteous Among the Nations” for risking her life to save Jews during the Holocaust. In 1944 in the city of Cluj, Magdelena Stroe saved her Jewish friend Hanna Kende. When Hungary was seized by Germany, ghettos were established and Jews were expelled. Magdelena, though she did not know about the existence of death camps in Auschwitz, knew that Hanna was in danger and gave her friend her own identity documents, saving her life. It was Hanna Kende who requested the Yad Vashem Institute to acknowledge Magdelena Stroe’s heroism.

Mrs. Giuliana Lestini

The 2004 Garden of the Righteous honoree, Mrs. Giuliana Lestini, is an extraordinary woman from Rome, Italy. Mrs. Lestini assisted her father in anti-fascist activities during World War II. Her father, Pietro Lestini, recognized as “Righteous” as well, was an anti-fascist and worked during the Nazi occupation for the Azione Cattolica (Catholic Action), an organization which provided aid to evacuees, to Italian draft dodgers (after September 8, 1943), to allied soldiers, and to Jews. Mr. Lestini, who occupied an office in St. Gioacchino’s Church in Rome, had a “loft” built in the ceiling of the church. For seven months, forty men, of whom ten were Jewish, were hidden there and were helped by Mrs. Lestini and her father. The wives and the mothers of those Jews were hidden in a convent not far from the Church. Mrs. Lestini and her family hosted them at their home. Giuliana Lestini’s book, Roma-Israele-Roma, published in Italian discusses her experience. She was interviewed by Yad Vashem in April 1998 when she traveled there on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. Mrs. Lestini also provided a 6-hour video testimony to the “Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.” Mrs. Lestini, of blessed memory, passed away on September 30, 2010.

Gauvin Family

Adas Israel honored the Gauvin Family from France in the 2003 Garden of the Righteous ceremony. Mr. Robert Gauvin, one of the children of Louis Gauvin, represented his family and Leon Epsteinas (related to Adas Israel member, Jackie Levinson) was present representing his family who was saved along with twenty other Jewish families saved by the Gauvin Family. Many thousands of Jews of France did not survive the war and were in fact handed over to the Nazis by the French government. The heroism of the Gauvin family is a story of distinction, which we are honored and compelled to share.

Tole Madna and Mima Saina

In 2002, the congregation honored Tole Madna and Mima Saina from the Netherlands.  Mr. Rob Madna, one of the children of Mr. Tole Madna, represented his family and was honored with a plaque in our Garden of the Righteous. Tole Madna and Mima Saina saved Dr. Alfred Munzer, a member of the Washington Jewish community and a member of Adas Israel.  As an infant in Holland in 1941, Dr. Munzer’s parents hid in a hospital, but were rounded up by the Nazis.  His father was killed, but his mother survived.  His two sisters, ages 6 and 8, were hidden with a different family, but were denounced and died in Auschwitz in 1944.  Alfred was fortunate to have been protected by the Madna Family, who kept him together with their three children.  Their housekeeper, Mima Saina, walked miles every day to find milk for him and guarded him with her life.  Alfred and his mother were reunited in 1945 when he was 3 ½ years old.  Al Munzer never asked “Papa Madna” why he and Mima risked their lives to save his.  He knows that they had the ability to hear and answer a human need, which is what it means to be righteous. Mr. Rob Madna, of blessed memory, passed away in 2003.

Bruno Rozentals

The 2001 honoree was Bruno Rozentals from Latvia. In early 1942, 16-year-old Bruno Rozentals, his 13-year-old brother, their father and stepmother began to rescue Jewish people. By the end of World War II, three years later, they had saved 36 Jews. The Rozentals hid and supplied food to 36 Jews who came from the Ghetto and killing camps. They hid them in a series of rooms and tunnels carved beneath their house and barn, and at the farm of neighbors they recruited to help. Every Jew taken in by Bruno’s family survived the war.
Aside from the obvious Jewish content in teaching children, as well as adult members of the congregation, about the history of the Jews during the Holocaust, many Jewish values are associated with this undertaking. These include remembrance, humaneness, compassion, righteousness, overcoming indifference, brotherhood, honoring others, giving thanks, and choosing life. Equally noteworthy is that this annual event teaches our people’s history to our children in a way that emphasizes respect, honor and good deeds, while de-emphasizing the fears often associated with the Holocaust, especially in trying to teach the subject to younger children.

Vasilis Persedis

In 2000, Vasilis Persedis from Greece was the Garden of the Righteous Honoree. Mr. Persedis, who lives in Greece, was joined by his wife and by Isaac Dostis, the son of one of the families he helped to rescue. Mr. Persedis helped many Jews in Greece escape from the Nazis by guiding them over the mountains to a port where they were taken to safety by boat.  Vasilis Perseides, of blessed memory, died in July 2004.


Magdalena Horvath

Magdalena Horvath from Budapest, Hungary was the 1999 honoree. Married to Erny Szendrody, a Jewish man, Magdalena risked her own life and that of her two small children to hide many members of her husband’s family. When her mother-in-law received her notice to report for deportation, Magdalena asked her own mother for her papers. Her mother, afraid of the consequences for helping a Jew refused. Magdalena, feeling she had no other choice, took her mother’s papers and gave them to her mother-in-law. She then took her mother-in-law to an apartment in the mountains where she lived as a gentile until the end of the war. In the last months of the war, when the situation became extremely dangerous, 28 Jews were hiding in Magdalena’s small apartment. Magdalena and Erny came to the United States in 1956 after the Hungarian revolution. Her husband died years ago. Magdalena, of blessed memory, passed away in August 2004.

Sabina Kazimierczyk and her daughter Maria Jankowski

In 1998 we honored two extraordinary women from Poland, Sabina Kazimierczyk and her daughter Maria Jankowski, who, during the course of the Holocaust, risked their lives by hiding Felix Zandman and four other Jews for 17 months under the floor of their home. In gratitude, Dr. Zandman, now a resident of Westchester, Pennsylvania, brought his rescuers to the United States and was present that morning to personally thank them and to speak on their behalf.


Mr. Eugene de Thassy

Mr. Eugene de Thassy of Hungary, our 1997 honoree, spent the years of the war attempting to rescue Jews from certain death. Among other heroic deeds, he risked his life in Budapest, Hungary, trying to save a doctor and his wife, who unfortunately eventually perished at Auschwitz. He rescued another family from the Gestapo by hiding them in a convent and by enrolling their son in a boarding school as his own son. After the war, Mr. de Thassy settled in the United States where he has worked for the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. Mr. de Thassy, of blessed memory, passed away in April 2008.

Dr. Lillian Gaffney and Ms. Germaine Belline

In 1996, Dr. Lillian Gaffney and Ms. Germaine Belline were our honorees. A mother and daughter who now live in New Jersey, during the war Germaine Belline and Liliane Gaffney lived in Belgium where together they saved more than 30 lives.

Dr. Marion Pritchard
Dr. Marion Pritchard was the 1995 Garden of the Righteous honoree. Dr. Pritchard, a practicing psychotherapist in Vermont, is a native of the Netherlands, and has been recognized by The State of Israel at Yad Vashem, the Memorial to the Six Million, as well as by her own state of Vermont. During World War II she not only hid Jews from the Nazi’s, but shot a German soldier in order to protect them.


Raoul Wallenberg

In 1994, the Garden of the Righteous program honored the memory of Raoul Wallenbergand also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the destruction of Hungarian Jewish community. The program that year featured the participation of the youth of Adas Israel and included participation of representatives of the Embassy of Sweden and the Embassy of Israel. Dr. Michael Berenbaum of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum was the keynote speaker. 


Preben Munch Nielsen
The 1993 ceremony, enhanced by scheduling of the dedication and opening of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, honored Preben Munch-Nielsen of Copenhagen. Fifty years earlier, as a high school student, Mr. Munch-Nielsen was among a number of Danes who risked their lives to ferry their Jewish neighbors in small fishing boats across German-patrolled waters to sanctuary in Sweden. As a result of their heroic efforts, 7,000 Danish Jews (more than 90% of that country’s Jewish community) were rescued. Coincidentally, the small boat actually piloted by Mr. Munch-Nielsen was located and donated to the Holocaust Museum as a permanent exhibit. Mr. and Mrs. Munch-Nielsen returned in subsequent years to honor other honorees. Mr. Munch-Nielson, of blessed memory, passed away in 2002.


Dr. Jan Karski
The first year’s honoree, in the spring of 1992, was Dr. Jan Karski, Professor of Political Science at Georgetown University. A former Polish diplomat who escaped from capture by both the Russians and the Gestapo, Dr. Karski met during the war with Allied heads of state, alerting them to the condition of European Jewry and urging action by the Allies. The Government of Israel previously honored Dr. Karski, whose efforts have been acknowledged throughout the world. Mrs. Karski, a survivor and well-known dancer, accompanied her husband to the ceremony and was appropriately recognized. Both Mr. and Mrs. Karski are now deceased.

Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; “Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day”), known colloquially in Israel and abroad as Yom HaShoah (יום השואה) and in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Holocaust Day, is observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its accessories, and for the Jewish resistance in that period. In Israel, it is a national memorial day. It was inaugurated in 1953, anchored by a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion and the President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. It is held on the 27th of Nisan(April/May), unless the 27th would be adjacent to the Jewish Sabbath, in which case the date is shifted by a day.[1]

Some other countries have different commemorative days for the same event—see Holocaust Memorial Day.


Yom HaShoah was inaugurated in 1953, anchored in a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, and the President of Israel,Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.[2]

The original proposal was to hold Yom HaShoah on the 14th of Nisan, the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising (April 19, 1943), but this was problematic because the 14th of Nisan is the day immediately before Pesach (Passover). The date was moved to the 27th of Nisan, which is eight days before Yom Ha’atzma’ut, or Israeli Independence Day.

While there are Orthodox Jews who commemorate the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah, others in the Orthodox community—especially Haredim, including Hasidim—remember the victims of the Holocaust on days of mourning declared by the rabbis before the Holocaust, such as Tisha b’Av in the summer,[3] and the Tenth of Tevet, in the winter, because in the Jewish tradition the month of Nisan is considered a joyous month associated with Passover and messianic redemption. Ismar Schorsch, former Chancellor of Conservative Judaism‘s Jewish Theological Seminary of America held that Holocaust commemoration should take place on Tisha b’Av.[4]

Most Jewish communities hold a solemn ceremony on this day, but there is no institutionalized ritual accepted by all Jews. Lighting memorial candles and reciting the Kaddish—the prayer for the departed—are common. The Masorti (Conservative Judaism) movement in Israel has created Megillat HaShoah, a scroll and liturgical reading for Yom HaShoah, a joint project of Jewish leaders in Israel, the United States and Canada. The booklet was subsequently converted into a kosher scroll by sofer Marc Michaels for reading in the community and then into a tikkun—copyist guide for scribes—’Tikkun megillat hashoah‘. In 1984, Conservative Rabbi David Golinkin wrote an article in the journal Conservative Judaism suggesting a program of observance for the holiday, including fasting.



Flags at half mast at sundown on Yom HaShoah

Sirens blare at 10 am as motorists exit their cars and stand in silence in front of the Prime Minister’s House in Jerusalem and throughout Israel on Yom HaShoah

Yom HaShoah opens in Israel at sundown[5] in a state ceremony held in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Authority, in Jerusalem. During the ceremony the national flag is lowered to half mast, the President and the Prime Minister both deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors light six torches symbolizing the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and the Chief Rabbis recite prayers.[6]

On Yom HaShoah, ceremonies and services are held at schools, military bases and by other public and community organizations.

On the eve of Yom HaShoah and the day itself, places of public entertainment are closed by law. Israeli television airs Holocaust documentaries and Holocaust-related talk shows, and low-key songs are played on the radio. Flags on public buildings are flown at half mast. At 10:00 a.m., an air raid siren sounds throughout the country and Israelis are expected to observe two minutes of solemn reflection. Many people stop what they are doing, including motorists who stop their cars in the middle of the road, standing beside their vehicles in silence as the siren is sounded.[7]

Observance of the day is moved back to the Thursday before, if 27 Nisan falls on a Friday (as in 2008), or forward a day, if 27 Nisan falls on a Sunday (to avoid adjacency with the Jewish Sabbath). The fixed Jewish calendar ensures 27 Nisan does not fall on Saturday.[1]



The March of the Livingfrom Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp

Jews in the Diaspora may observe this day within the synagogue, as well as in the broader Jewish community. Commemorations range from synagogue services to communal vigils and educational programs. Many Yom HaShoah programs feature a talk by a Holocaust survivor or a direct descendant, recitation of appropriate psalms, songs and readings, or viewing of a Holocaust-themed film. Some communities choose to emphasize the depth of loss that Jews experienced in the Holocaust by reading the names of Holocaust victims one after another—dramatizing the unfathomable notion of six million deaths. Many Jewish schools also hold Holocaust-related educational programs on, or around, Yom HaShoah.

Also during this day, tens of thousands of Israeli high-school students, and thousands of Jews and non-Jews from around the world, hold a memorial service in Auschwitz, in what has become known as “The March of the Living,” in defiance of the Holocaust Death Marches. This event is endorsed and subsidized by the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Holocaust Claims Conference, and is considered an important part of the school curriculum – a culmination of several months of studies on World War II and the Holocaust.


In the last few decades all the prayerbooks of Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism have developed similar liturgies to be used on Yom HaShoah. The siddurim of these groups add passages that are meant to be added to standard weekday service, as well as stand-alone sections. These liturgies generally include:

  • Lighting of a candle (often each member of the congregation lights one)
  • Modern poems, including “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining…”
  • El Malei Rahamim (God, full of mercy, dwelling on high)
  • Mourner’s Kaddish.

In the Conservative Sim Shalom and the Israeli Masorti Va’ani Tefilati siddurim there is a special addition into the framework of the Shomeya Tefillah (“Hear our prayer”)[8] or Birkat HaTzadikim (Prayer for the Righteous),[9] Nachem, said in each Amidah of Yom HaShoah.

Some Modern Orthodox prayerbooks suggest prayers or psalms to be said on Yom HaShoah.

In 1988 the American Reform movement published Six Days of Destruction (Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Albert Friedlander). Narratives from Holocaust survivors are juxtaposed with the six days of creation found in Genesis.

More recently Conservative rabbis and lay leaders in the US, Israel and Canada collaborated to write Megillat Hashoah, (The Holocaust Scroll). It contains personal recollections of Holocaust survivors. A responsa was written by Rabbi David Golinkin expressing the view that not only is it legitimate for the modern Jewish community to write a new scroll of mourning, it was also incumbent to do so.[10]

In response to the lack of liturgy dedicated to Yom HaShoah, Daniel Gross composed, in 2009, I Believe – A Shoah Requiem, a complete musical liturgy dedicated to the observance of Yom HaShoah. An a cappella oratorio scored for cantor, soprano solo, adult chorus and children’s chorus, I Believe features several traditional prayer texts such as the Mourner’s Kaddish (Kaddish Yatom) and the El Malei memorial prayer, and also includes the poetry of Paul Celan and Primo Levi. On April 7, 2013, I Believe had its world premiere[11] presentation at Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, Michigan. An excerpt from this oratorio,[12] was performed earlier at the Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin during the 2012 Cantors Assembly Mission to Germany. Daniel Gross is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, The Juilliard School and The University of Pennsylvania and is the cantor of Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Orthodox Judaism

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, in 1949, under the guidance of Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel and Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, decided that the Tenth of Tevet should be the national remembrance days for victims of the Holocaust. The Tenth of Tevet fast commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II. For this day, it recommended traditional Jewish ways of remembering the dead, such as the study of the traditional Mishnah section about ritual baths, saying Psalms, lighting a yahrzeit candle and saying Kaddish for those Holocaust victims whose date of death remains unknown. On other occasions, the Chief Rabbinate also referred to Tisha b’Av as being a date of remembrance for Holocaust victims.[13]

The Knesset decision taken on April 21, 1951 to designate the 27th of Nisan as Yom HaShoah ignored the Rabbinate’s decision from two years earlier, and the Chief Rabbinate, in turn, decided to ignore the Knesset’s chosen date, one reason being the fact that Jewish law forbids fasting and certain laws of mourning during the month of Nisan, which is considered to be a month of happiness. Another view, held by influential Haredi Rabbi Avraham Yeshayeh Karelitz (known as the ‘Chazon Ish’), held that nowadays we do not have the power to institute new days of mourning or commemoration for future generations.

While there are nevertheless Orthodox Jews who commemorate the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah, others in the Orthodox community – especially Haredim, including Hasidim – remember the victims of the Holocaust on traditional days of mourning which were already in place before the Holocaust, such as Tisha B’Av in the summer, and the Tenth of Tevet, in the winter. Several well-known Haredi rabbis, including Rabbi Michael Dov Ber Weissmandl, Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam of Bobov, Rabbi Shimon Schwab, and several others, wrote kinnot about the Shoah, to be said on Tisha b’Av.

While most Modern Orthodox Religious Zionist Jews do stand still for two minutes during the siren, in Haredi areas, no attention is given to Yom HaShoah. Most stores do not close, schools continue and most people do not stop walking when the siren sounds. The non-participation of Haredim in Yom HaShoah is one of the points which regularly causes friction between Haredim and non-Haredim in Israel, as non-Haredim consider the Haredi position of ignoring the siren and Yom HaShoah altogether to be disrespectful.

Thus, a situation has come into existence where religious forms of commemoration take place primarily on the Tenth of Tevet and on Tisha b’Av, while secular forms of commemoration take place primarily on Yom HaShoah, and either part of the population ignores the other’s day of commemoration.

Conservative Judaism


A lit Yom HaShoah Yellow Candle

In 1981, members of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs FJMC, a branch of the mainstream Conservative/Masorti movement, created a special memorial project specifically for Yom HaShoah. A dedicated yahrzeit candle was conceived, with yellow wax and a barbed-wire Star of David logo reminiscent of the armbands Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. This object has come to be known as the Yellow Candle (TM). Approximately 200,000 candles are distributed around the world each year, along with relevant prayers and meditations.

In 1984, Conservative Rabbi David Golinkin wrote an article in Conservative Judaism journal suggesting a program of observance for the holiday, including fasting. In his article he noted that while private fasts are indeed prohibited during the month of Nisan (a major Orthodox objection to the placement of the day), communal fasts for tragedies befalling Jewish communities had indeed been declared throughout the pre-Modern period.

Another prominent Conservative Jewish figure shared the Orthodox sentiment about not adopting Yom HaShoah. Ismar Schorsch, former Chancellor ofConservative Judaism‘s Jewish Theological Seminary of America held that Holocaust commemoration should take place on Tisha b’Av.

The Masorti (Conservative) movement in Israel has created Megillat HaShoah, a scroll and liturgical reading for Yom HaShoah. This publication was a joint project of Jewish leaders in Israel, the United States and Canada.

In 2011, the FJMC introduced a related Yellow Candle concept for use on Kristallnacht (The Night of Shattered Glass) and other important Shoah commemoration dates. Called the Ner Katan, FJMC’s new version consists of six Yellow Candles provided for communal observances and ceremonies.

Gregorian dates

In 2010, 27 Nisan fell on Sunday, April 11, starting on the evening of Saturday April 10. Due to a conflict with Sabbath observance, under these circumstances, Yom Hashoah is shifted forward one day to 28 Nisan. So in 2010, Yom Hashoah was observed on Monday, April 12.[14] Similarly, for 2011, the 27th of Nisan fell on Sunday, May 1. Thus the observance was moved up a day to Monday, May 2.[15]

Upcoming dates of observance:

  • 2016 Thursday, May 5
  • 2017 Monday, April 24
  • 2018 Thursday, April 12
  • 2019 Thursday, May 2
  • 2020 Tuesday, April 21
  • 2021 Thursday, April 8
  • 2022 Thursday, April 28

What we have lost  –  our humanity  on all sides there is a voracious lack of concern for our neighbors, our brothers, our sisters, our spirits, our connections, our presence as sacred testimony to the light of  one another in each other, we share a common bond that stretches across the horizon from end to end of humanity as one blessing of life giving force forged in our insemination as beings, creative yearning living breathing spirits of an eternal flame.


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