Seventy years after the end of the Second World War, the national Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony, April 28 at the Canadian War Museum, focused on both remembering the past and ensuring that the memories are passed to the next generation of Canadians. The theme of the commemoration, organized by the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, was “70 Years Since the End of the War: The Pain of Liberation and Rebuilding a Life.”
A group of more than 130 high school students from Ontario and Quebec participated in a program called “Ambassadors for Change,” prior to joining the large assembled audience at the official ceremony. The youth program enabled students from a wide variety of ethnic origins to hear first-hand stories of the Holocaust. In a question-and-answer period moderated by public school teacher Patrick Mascoe, who has been involved for several years in promoting Holocaust education in Ottawa schools, the students sat at tables with Holocaust survivors and engaged in discussions.
At the ceremony, Rabbi Reuven Bulka gave a D’var Torah, connecting the 70th anniversary of the end of the war with the “70 Jewish people who descended into Egypt thousands of years ago.”
Rabbi Bulka also offered thanks to Canada. “This great country is standing up for Israel and for people everywhere,” he said.
Addressing the Holocaust survivors and their families in attendance, Rabbi Bulka said, “We wish for all of our dear Holocaust survivors and their families to know that what happened will never be forgotten and will always be actively and energetically remembered in the most positive way.”
In his remarks, Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak pointed out that the prevalence of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism remains a scourge in today’s world.
“Today is not 1933, but 2015 and yet the State of Israel is openly threatened,” he said. “In Paris, in Brussels and in Copenhagen, Jews are being killed just for being Jews.”
Barak thanked Canada for its friendship and for “demonstrating its deep commitment” to the State of Israel.
Praising the resilience and determination of Holocaust survivors who went on to build lives and families, Barak said, “Our revenge is survival, the Jewish people live. Am Yisrael Chai.”
The ceremony was attended by members of Parliament from of all four federal political parties, and representatives of more than 50 diplomatic missions. The City of Ottawa was represented by Mayor Jim Watson.
Messages of support were delivered by Defence Minister Jason Kenney; Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, who spoke emotionally about his recent trip to France with his wife and her mother who had escaped from Europe as a Jewish refugee and was making her first trip back; Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau; and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
Cantor Moshe Kraus, himself a Holocaust survivor, movingly sang “Kel Malei Rachamim” and led the audience in reciting Kaddish.
The shofar was blown by Rabbi Bulka and a young student and the Ottawa Jewish Community School participated in the ceremony and led the final singing of “Hatikvah” prior to the Marching off the Colours by the Jewish War Veterans of Canada, Ottawa Post.