The Shoah (Holocaust) Committee of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa has an important mission to preserve the memories and legacies of the past so we may educate future generations about the worst genocide in modern history.
November is Holocaust Education Month, during which we hold programs focused on educating the Jewish and broader communities about the Holocaust. When I assumed the role as the chair of the Shoah Committee this summer, I did so out of a deep and personal belief in the importance of the work.
I am a child of Holocaust survivors. Every day, when I look at my hands, I remember and I am also inspired. I wear a ring that holds one of three diamonds my grandmother managed to hide while in Theresienstadt. When she was transferred to Auschwitz, she gave the diamonds to a young man who she thought had a greater chance of surviving. She asked him to give the diamonds to her son in London.
After the war, he kept his promise and found her son – my father – and delivered the precious stones. One of the diamonds was made into a ring, which my mother gave to me before she died. The ring reminds me of where I come from and the goodness in humanity.
These are part of the goals of Holocaust Education Month: to remember our past and to inspire the future by teaching them about the incredible legacies of the Holocaust.
On Sunday, November 1, 7 pm, we will hold our launch event, “A Night to Remember” at the National Gallery of Canada. Internationally renowned violinist Eugene Drucker and accomplished pianist Marija Stroke will perform Bach, Brahms and Prokofiev as part of a special concert, sponsored by Jewish Family Services (JFS) and the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, “in memory of those who perished” and “in honour of those who survived.”
Both performers are children of Holocaust survivors. Proceeds will go toward JFS social and recreational programming for Russian Jewish seniors in Ottawa, most of whom are Holocaust survivors. For information and tickets, contact Rotem Brajtman at email@example.com or 613-722-2225, ext. 467.
Later in November, the Shoah Committee is hosting two events.
On Sunday, November 15, 3:30 pm, there will be a free screening of the documentary, There Was Once… at Centrepointe Theatre. This is an inspiring story of a high school teacher in Kalocsa, Hungary, who seeks to discover what happened to the Jews who used to live in her town, as part of a history lesson for her students. Her tenacity helps her find survivors spread around the world, one of whom is Gabor Kalman, the film’s producer, who resides in Los Angeles.
The screening will conclude with a question-and-answer period with Gabor Kalman. This event is co-sponsored with the Embassy of Hungary. Hungary currently chairs the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
On Monday, November 23, 7 pm, Richard Marceau will give a talk at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre on where Canada stands regarding restitution for Canadian Holocaust survivors for property that was seized by the Nazis. A former member of Parliament, Richard Marceau is general counsel and senior government adviser of the Canadian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and currently sits on the Working Group on Negotiations and Advocacy of the World Jewish Restitution Organization.
For more information on these two events, contact Benita Siemiatycki at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-798-4644.
I hope everyone is able to attend all, or some, of these events. Your support in remembering the Holocaust and teaching others is appreciated.
Among her many volunteer community leadership roles, Debbie Halton-Weiss is a past chair of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.