On Wednesday night, April 11th, the Student Holocaust Education Movement (SHEM) commemorated Yom Hashoah by organizing their annual event memorializing the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust. The event featured twin Holocaust survivors, Bernard and Henry Schanzer, and University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought, Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter.
The theme of the event this year was “We Live On”; the Jewish nation endured a tragedy that caused the loss of six million lives, but at the end of it we survived and we continue to live on. As Henry Schanzer said, “Our family and our people have risen from the ashes.” The Schanzer brothers told the audience their story of how they survived the war. They hid in a farm, concealing their Jewish identity for the majority of the war. After the war, they were reunited with their mother and sister, “A mother and her three children.” This year they celebrated their 72nd anniversary in the United States. In their closing remarks, they asked: how can we avenge the murder of six million lives? They answered that even though the Nazis inflicted great harm on us, the best revenge is to live on. “You are our hope,” Bernard Schanzer said, and he continued that we must have the courage to stand up to evil and to use our voices to say “never again.”
Their speech was followed with a video by students that showed descendants of Holocaust survivors, including students, expressing their own feelings about the survivors in their family. A few character traits of parents or grandparents that were praised in the video were positivity and the passion in their hearts to maintain their Jewish identities. “We are very proud to have been able to incorporate students into the program through the presentations and having them talk about their grandparents,” said Co-President of the Shem Board, Yosef Sklar (YC ‘19).
Rav J.J. Schacter expressed his awe for the survivors and discussed the impact the Shoah has on future generations through the lens of a the child of a liberator. He emphasized the importance of maintaining faith in God under questionable circumstances. He explained how we were not spared to forget who we are. “Our presence speaks volumes to the commitment of the eternity of the Jewish people,” which resonated with the theme, “We Live On.”
At the conclusion of the program students were left inspired by the powerful messages that were conveyed. A student Elka Weisenberg (SCW ‘20) said, “It was a powerful message to hear twin brothers. To have seen a family coming out of the Holocaust thriving gave me an appreciation for Klal Yisroel.”