By Dan Horowitz - Despite a steady downpour, more than 2,000 people marked the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah V’Hagurah) on Sunday, May 1st, by attending an emotional commemorative ceremony at Toronto’s Earl Bales Park.
Co-sponsored by UJA’s Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre and the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem with the support of many community organizations, the event, the only city-wide commemoration in Toronto, is also the largest outside of Israel.
The theme of this year’s ceremony was focused on paying tribute to “The Faces Behind the Stories” – Holocaust survivors in the community, their personal stories of survival and their contributions to Holocaust education. The event also featured stories of the Holocaust told by three generation – a survivor, the child of survivors, and the grandchild of survivors.
“Because my family was killed, I felt that I had to do whatever I could,” said Faye Schulman, who served as a Jewish Partisan, and a Holocaust survivor who lost her entire family to the Shoah. “I saved many people, but, unfortunately, I couldn’t save my own family. Some people said we went like lambs to the slaughter, but it’s not true. Unfortunately, not many Jewish partisans survived. Maybe that’s why little is known about them. May the partisans be an inspiration to you.”
“The wounds of all Holocaust survivors are always there in one way or another – in words, deeds and silence,” said Howard Sokolowski, the son of two Holocaust survivors. “My parents taught me that love is triumphant, and all of the survivors showed me that the will to survive and flourish will never be snuffed out.”
Samuel Buckstein, a Grade 12 CHAT student, had a succinct message for the attendees.
“The Holocaust has taught me that people are capable of great good and great evil,” he said.
Over 30 survivors participated in the one-hour memorial service which included a candle-lighting ceremony and a brief address by the Consul General of Israel in Toronto, Amir Gissin.
“We are blessed to be here today,” said Consul General Gissin. “We are all blessed to live in Canada and we must give thanks to the government, to the political system and to the citizens of the nation of Canada for its support.”