Sign In Forgot Password

Holocaust Memorial Dedication Video

by Michael & Phyllis Kann
in honor of Mrs. Mimi Weingarten
In Tribute to their loving parents
In Memory of the 6 million who perished in the Shoah



Dedication Remarks by Michael Kann

Shabbat Shalom.

Thank you Rabbi, and thank all of you, for your time and interest in spending a few minutes together today on a subject matter which, while we all know of its enormity in our collective Jewish identity, continues each day to fade further into the recesses of history, as time marches on.  I speak, of course, of remembering the Holocaust.  And in addition to remembering the events of the Holocaust, today we are memorializing its victims and honoring a survivor.

Several years ago, as plans were drawn up for the new shul,  the process included developing a list of dedications.  As we created the list, at some point it occurred to me that the glaring omission from all the dedication opportunities was a Holocaust Memorial.  It took only a few moments of conversation for me and Phyllis to decide to commit ourselves to sponsoring this project.

Why? Well, for both of us, as for so many others sitting here in this room, the events of the Holocaust have very personal associations.  My parents were both born and lived the early years of their lives in Germany, where they experienced Kristallnacht and suffered the humiliation and life altering events of the 1930s.   However, they were both fortunate enough to be in families who managed to leave Germany in 1939.  Phyllis’ father, Emil, zichrona l’vracha,  was born and raised in Slovakia, saw his entire family uprooted and many killed, and spent the war years as a Partisan, on the run through several eastern European countries.  Phyllis’ mother, who we are thrilled is here with us in shul today, suffered the worst fate of all.  Taken from her home town of Sighet, Rumania, she ended up in the one place which for most people came to embody the essence of all which was cruel, inhumane and barbaric to the Jews of Europe: Auschwitz.  Thru determination, luck, and perhaps the hand of g-d (which is for sure the subject of much debate) she was one of the fortunate ones, who came out alive.  While Phyllis and I took on this Holocaust  memorial project with a tremendous feeling of hakarat hatov for everything all four of our parents have done for us in our lives, which enabled us to take on such an endeavor as this, we are specifically dedicating this memorial  in honor of my mother-in-law, Mimi Weingarten,  and of course to the memory of the six million who perished in the holocaust.

Over the years I had heard bits and pieces of Phyllis’ mother’s story, which would take hours to retell, and in fact which has been chronicled in an extensive testimonial.  I would like to share with you an experience we had six years ago, which provided a glimpse of insight into my mother-in-law’s world of Eastern Europe from which she survived, both its highlights and its tragic elements.

In 2011, Phyllis and I travelled on a Heritage trip to Poland, along with Phyllis’ sister Zeva and my mother-in-law.  It was an emotionally gut-wrenching trip, as we travelled to places which on the one extreme included the Rama Shul, Chochmei Lublin, and the building which housed the original Bais Yaakov, reminders of the Jewish world which had once existed; and on the other extreme included  Treblinka, the killing forest of Tykocin, Mjdanek. and of course……Auschwitz, from which my mother-in-law survived.  I want to share with you a personal  e-mail I wrote at the time, describing the first part of our visit to Auschwitz, in a setting which took place on erev Tisha B’Av, under conditions which might have been straight out of Shindler’s list.  It was night time, we were walking on a path lit only by the headlights of a car accompanying us, which drove slowly behind us, and in the distance we could hear dogs barking and the whistle of a train.

Here is the e-mail I wrote the following day:

Last night was one of the most moving experiences of my life.  We went to Auschwitz and began a processional starting in front of the cattle cars which are situated outside the camp and were the original transport vehicles for Holocaust Jews.  We walked as a group, led by Rabbi Lookstein who held a sefer torah and recited the prayer which is said when one walks behind a casket in a funeral procession.  The Jews of Auschwitz never had a proper funeral; this was our tribute to them.  We proceeded along the rail tracks leading into the camp.  My mother-in-law was next to hold the Torah, with a daughter on each arm.  One can only imagine what was racing thru her mind, 66 years after surviving the hell we were marching toward.  Children of other survivors alternated holding the Torah, as we marched in silence.      As we entered thru the gates the numbness was overwhelming.  We were all speechless.  And then, in a moment that was awesome in nature, my mother-in-law recited the prayer "nes karah li b'makom hazeh" that a miracle happened to me in this place.  The tears just kept flowing.  Our group then climbed up the stairs to the top of the guard tower where we stood, overlooking Auschwitz, and davened ma'ariv followed by eichah.   The evening had started with wind and rain, fittingly, which later subsided.  Emotions like the ones I was experiencing I have rarely if ever felt before in my life.  We are now driving to Auschwitz again, Tisha B'Av day.  The sky is blue with a few puffy clouds and the sun is shining.  Our nechama begins.

As the years go by and time separates us from the events of the Holocaust, sadly the number of survivors who can still tell the story to the rest of us, continues to dwindle.  As such, the responsibility falls on our generation,  our children, and our children’s children, to keep the story alive and fresh, and to perpetuate the memories of those dark days, so that the often spoken words “never again” in fact ring true.  Phyllis and I sincerely hope that this memorial which we are dedicating today, helps our shul pay tribute to the Jews we lost in the shoah, perpetuates their memories, and provides future generations with an impetus to continue both the conversations and actions necessary to fulfill that pledge of “never again.”  Coincidentally, or perhaps ironically, it is fitting that this dedication occurs just before Shavuot, as it was on Erev Shavuot that my mother-in-law’s family arrived in Auschwitz, and that is the observed yahrzeit date for those family members who did not survive.

Before closing I would like to share with you an excerpt from the speech delivered by Prime Minister Netanyahu at this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem.  His overall comments were global in perspective, with a particular focus on Iran, and highlighted the concept of “never again”:

As Prime Minister of Israel, I will not be silent, I haven't been silent, and we don't intend to be inactive either. 
We don't merely intend to speak out but we will take all the measures we need to defend ourselves, and we will take all the measures necessary to prevent Iran from getting the means of mass murder to carry out their horrible plans.
We cannot and will not be silent in the face of Iran's stated aim of destroying Israel.
But we also know that the issue is not merely the Jewish state or the Jewish people. Because we've seen that this hatred, when it goes unchecked, spreads around the world, and in fact, in many ways, that is what is happening.
So it's up to the forces of civilization, the forces of conscience, the forces of responsibility to join together to stop this process. 
The regime that spawned the Holocaust ended up in the dustbin of history. That's a lesson for Iran. It's a lesson to every enemy of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
We will never forget the victims. We will never allow another Holocaust to take place. 
... I say, you know, as Prime Minister of Israel I have one job – to make sure that we will never need more institutions like Yad Vashem. And that's what we all have to be committed for.

About two years ago, while walking thru Jerusalem with our daughter Rebecca, Phyllis spotted an art gallery which caught her eye.  Fast forward, she met the artist, Joel Amit, with whom we have worked over the past two years to develop the concept of the artwork now hanging in the lobby.  Joel had the creative and imaginative genius to take the ideas which we had in our minds and convert those thoughts into something tangible, meaningful and powerful. I am pleased to welcome Joel Amit and his business partner, Uri Faddida who are here today, and ask Joel to offer his thoughts and words of insight regarding the piece of art he has created.

Sat, June 22 2024 16 Sivan 5784