Newark’s 29th annual Holocaust Remembrance Observance Teaches City Students to ‘Remember, Reflect, React’ Holocaust Survivor, Ruth Ravina, Shared her Story of Survival and Rescue at Ceremony Co-Sponsored by The Berger Organization, LLC
NEWARK, N.J., Jun 3, 2016 – Montclair resident Ruth Ravina is a world away from the horrors of the Holocaust she endured as a young child in Poland. But her story was fresh on her mind and burned into hearts when she shared it at Newark’s 29th annual Holocaust Remembrance Observance on Friday, May 27, 2016 at the Best Western Robert Treat Hotel.
The event—the state’s largest and oldest observance of the Holocaust—focuses on memorializing Holocaust victims as well as educating city youth about remembering, in the words of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, “how easily we can devolve to become our brother’s enemy rather than our brother’s keeper.” Among the attendees were students from city public, charter and parochial schools who are studying the Holocaust as part of their curriculum, clergy members from several faiths, survivors and their families, and local dignitaries. The theme of this year’s event was “Imagine … Remember, Reflect, React.”
Miles Berger, chairman and CEO of The Berger Organization, LLC and chairman of the event, opened the program with a brief synopsis of the Holocaust and gave remarks explaining the benefit of the ceremony to the students. “The primary purpose of this event is to teach our Newark students what happened in Europe between 1938 and 1945, so that as you grow up and become leaders, you can pass down the lessons you learn here today.”
Echoing Berger’s sentiment, Baraka talked about the importance of tolerance, respect, love, peace, and democracy. Citing actor-activist Paul Robeson, Baraka said, “God gave him the gift of music but also of humanity—to fight for what’s right, just and good. This ceremony is our opportunity to do so.”
In addition to Berger and Baraka, speakers included Steven Kern, director and CEO of the Newark Museum; Rabbi Levi Block, director of Chabad of Newark; and Rev. Dr. Perry Simmons, Jr. of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark. The Newark Boys’ Apprentice Choir from the Newark Boys Chorus School performed several songs throughout the ceremony.
Barbara Wind, director of the Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest, called up several people to light the memorial candles. Among them were European Jewish survivors; Robert Max, a Jewish-American army veteran and Purple Heart honoree who was last year’s keynote speaker; and a Catholic nun who lit a candle in honor of the 10th anniversary of death of Sister Rose Thering, a noted activist against anti-Semitism and a professor of Catholic-Jewish dialogue at Seton Hall University.
Ravina then took the stage to tell her story as the only child in her village in Poland to survive the Holocaust. She told of her “idyllic childhood” interrupted by the Nazis, who turned her town into a Jewish ghetto. When men and then the women were being taken away to work as slave laborers, she was hidden by a nearby Polish Christian farm family, then smuggled into the work camp where her mother and neighbors had been taken. She was hidden in the barrack for months—and again in a subsequent slave labor camp—surviving on scraps of food. She and her mother were transported to a third labor camp as the Russian troops approached, earmarked for eventual transport to the Auschwitz death camp.
When their Nazi guards fled the Russians, the prisoners—350 of them, all women and children—were abandoned and locked into the camp; they eventually escaped, emaciated and clothed only in rags against the harsh Polish winter. After their rescue, Ravina and her mother returned to their village, sole survivors of the family. Over time, Ravina and her mother emigrated through Sweden to Canada and then to the United States. Baraka presented a proclamation from the City of Newark in her honor.
In addition to the Berger Organization, other sponsoring organizations and companies were: the Holocaust Council of Metro West, the City of Newark’s Department of Neighborhood and Recreational Services, the Newark Public Schools, the Betesh Group, Edison Properties, LLC, and the Manischewitz Company.
Photo Caption: Top Row, Left to Right: Rev. Dr. Perry Simmons, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark; Miles Berger, chairman and CEO at the Berger Organization, Newark Mayor Ras J Baraka; David Sugarman, president at the Manischewitz Company; David Most, vice president at the Manischewitz Company
Bottom Row, Left to Right: Robert Max, 2015 Holocaust Remembrance Observance Key Note Speaker; Ruth Ravina, Holocaust Remembrance Observance Key Note Speaker; Barbara Winds, director of the Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest