Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh commemorates Yom HaShoah
In remembranceOf the 6 million murdered in the Holocaust

Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh commemorates Yom HaShoah

“When asked why Yom HaShoah was important, he said, ‘To celebrate Yom HaShoah is to celebrate life,’” Loeb said.

Allan Tissenbaum lights a candle in memory of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Shoah. (Photo by David Rullo)
Allan Tissenbaum lights a candle in memory of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Shoah. (Photo by David Rullo)

The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh commemorated Yom HaShoah, the first of three days of memory that occur this month, on May 6 at Chatham University’s Campbell Memorial Chapel.

Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, will be followed by Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut on May 12 and13 and took place amid the backdrop of Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza and rising antisemitism in the United States.

Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh Director of Programs and Education Emily Loeb opened the commemoration by recalling the words of Moshe Baran, a survivor who died on Feb. 3.

“When asked why Yom HaShoah was important, he said, ‘To celebrate Yom HaShoah is to celebrate life and death,’” Loeb said.

Holocaust Advisory Board Chair Lawrence Lebowitz shared that Yom HaShoah had been commemorated in Pittsburgh since at least 1978, two years before the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh was founded.

The commemoration, he said, remembers those who lost their lives during the Holocaust, those who survived and the sacrifices people made to survive or help others survive.

Before the program began, Lebowitz acknowledged the rise in antisemitism and around the world and the plight of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

The commemoration included participants from across the city and the surrounding region, opening with the piece “A Shturemvint (A Storm Wind)” performed by the Community Day School Student Vocalists and accompanied by teacher Chaim Steinberg.

Based on a Yiddish folk song, the song called for an eternal end to fascism.

Piper Bozick from Mt. Lebanon High School and Abby Mihalacki from Ryan Gloyer Middle School in the Seneca Valley School District, 2022-2023 Waldman Arts and Writing Awards winners, gave dramatic readings of their respective pieces “Enough” and “The Game.”

Tree of Life Congregation Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers next led a rendition of “Ani Ma’Amin,” a prayer based on the 13 articles of Jewish faith as summarized by Maimonides and sung by Jews in Warsaw, Lublin, Lodz and Bialystok as they were taken to their death.

Rabbi Amy Bardack of Congregation Dor Hadash and granddaughter of survivors Maria and Albert Frankle, grandniece of Clara Blumenfeld and cousin of George and Ann Bass chanted “K’eyl Maley Rachamim” in both Hebrew and English. The memorial prayer is a traditional Ashkenazi funeral prayer that is modified on Yom HaShoah to remember the victims of the Holocaust.

The program’s centerpiece was a film excerpt created by Chatham University students Sean McIntosh and Anna Betar. Edited interviews with survivors Hans Jonas, Harry Schneider, Oscar Singer and Irene Skolnick were screened.

Each of the survivors spoke of their memories and experiences and told of their journey to America.

The lighting of six candles in memory of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Shoah followed the film.

Veronic Schmerling, daughter of survivors Agnes and George Rocher; Allan Tissenbaum, son of survivor Ellen De Jonge Tissenbaum and grandson of Hedda and Albert De Jonge; Sara DeVos, daughter of survivors Uszer and Minna Podolska Dawidowicz; Marc Friedberg, grandson of survivors Alisa Schaffer and great-grandson of survivor Josephine Schonberg; Julia Howard, granddaughter of Herman Snyder; and Avi Baran Munro, daughter of Malka and Moshe Baran, all lit candles.

Highmark Health Vice President of Community Affairs Kannu Sahni; Tree of Life, Inc. CEO, and daughter of Mauthausen liberator Murray Zawatsky, Carole Zawatsky; and PNC Senior Vice President, Market Leader Matthew George lit three additional candles to recognize the Righteous Among the Nations, Liberators and Veterans.

Kaddish was chanted by Temple Emanuel of South Hills Rabbi Aaron Meyer and “Hymn of the Partisans” was sung in both English and Yiddish by Nancy Zionts.

The ceremony concluded with the names of all the Holocaust survivors who settled in the Pittsburgh region and have now passed away shown on a screen accompanied by music performed by Gretchen Van Hoesen (harp) and Alexandra Lee (cello).

In her recorded interview, Irene Skolnick perhaps summed up best what survival means for those that lived through and witnessed the horrors of the Shoah:

“What does it mean to survive? It means to stay alive, and it means to stay human.” PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org