The keynote speaker at Sunday night’s Five Towns Community-Wide Holocaust Commemoration said that tolerance, obviously missing from Europe in the years surrounding World War II, is the essential ingredient for future peace.
“Had there been respect and tolerance for one another some 70 years ago I would not be here this evening” to recount a dark history, 85-year-old Marion Blumental Lazan, a child survivor, author and lecturer, told the more than 1,200 people who crowded into Congregation Beth Shalom in Lawrence.
After recounting the story of her life during the Shoah and how she built a new life in America (she was 16 when she met her future husband, Nathaniel, now 82, in shul in Peoria on Yom Kippur; they have three married children and nine grandchildren), she spoke of the importance of sharing that period of our history, “particularly with our young people.”
Acknowledging the fact that each year there are fewer survivors to give personal testimony, she said, “[You are] the very last generation ever to hear these stories first hand. … When we’re not here any longer, it is you who will have to bear witness.”
The horrors of the Shoah “must be taught and kept alive,” Lazan said. “Only then will [we prevent it] from ever happening again.”
Then she returned to her theme of tolerance and respect.
“Let us treat people as individuals and respect their differences,” she said, adding that “we must never generalize and judge any group by the actions of some who are in that group.”
She said that in recalling that “six million of our people were murdered, we also need to remember that five million non-Jews lost their lives — and among them righteous gentiles who saved Jewish families.”
Dana Frenkel, who organized Sunday’s event with Nathaniel Rogoff, asked the crowd, “What does it mean to remember?”
“When we think we have found safety and security we are reminded that the principles of Amalek are in full force,” she said. “They are found in bomb threats to JCCs around the country, they are around in Holocaust deniers, they are found in physical attacks on French Jews, they are found in assignments given to high school students to write persusasive essays defending the Final Solution.
“But we remember that we are loved by G-d; we remember that we have defied all odds to continue to exist as a nation despite Amalek, despite the Greeks, the Romans, Haman, the Crusaders, Hitler and the Nazis, Ahmadinejad, and all those who have tried and will try to destroy us.”
Quoting the psalmist, she reminded, “Those who love G-d hate evil,” and said that “we demonstrate that when we cleave to the values of our people: Loving kindness, honesty and humility, even in the face of hardness and torture.”
Of the disappearing Shoah survivors, Frankel said, “These are not strangers, historical figures out of a book. These are our parents, our aunts, our uncles, our brothers and sisters.”