Holocaust Remembrance Day observed in Tri-State

April 19, 2004|By BRIAN SHAPPELL and DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN - April is among the busiest months for people of the Jewish faith, said Rabbi Fred Raskind of Congregation B'nai Abraham.

During the weekend closest to the midpoint of the busy month, Tri-State Jewish congregations observed Holocaust Remembrance Day with stories of some who experienced it and reminders of why it cannot be forgotten.

Though no special services were scheduled for Sunday or today at Congregation B'nai Abraham in Hagerstown, Raskind said it is important to remember the Holocaust, especially because of the "resurgence of anti-Semitism."


"There's a great deal of anti-Semitism in policy in Europe, and there's a ferocious amount of anti-Semitism coming from radical Muslim groups," he said.

Raskind delivered his Holocaust-oriented message to members of his Congregation at a service Friday. He said the theme was "God and love at Auschwitz," and that "you should love your neighbor with the same basic humanity as you have; we all have the same basic humanity."

Raskind said it is important to "celebrate the righteous." Raskind said he focused a portion of his time Friday on the story of Primo Levi, an Italian Jew who was among many saved by a non-Jewish Italian man who snuck food to people in concentration camps.

"When we live for others and have a purpose in life, we flourish," he said.

Holocaust Remembrance Day falls this year between two key holidays in the Jewish faith ? Passover, which started at sundown April 5, and Israel Independence Day, which will be observed at B'nai Abraham during private services later this week.

Raskind said the re-establishment of Israel is thought by many to have occurred as a direct response to the Holocaust.

"Theologically, many look at the re-establishment of Israel and the death of the Holocaust in a parallel way," he said.

He said it is similar to the way Christians view the "crucifixion leading to the resurrection" of Jesus Christ.

Congregations officially recognize Holocaust Remembrance Day this year on Sunday (April 19) or today (April 20), depending on various sources.

On Sunday at Congregation Sons of Israel in Chambersburg, Pa., more than 100 Jews and Christians gathered for the 27th Holocaust Memorial Service and heard accounts of life and death in the concentration camps and killing fields of Europe during World War II.

"On the way to their doom, they were pushed and beaten with rifle butts and gas pipes" and set upon by dogs, said Joe Kohler, a member of the First United Methodist Church, as he read an account of a carbon monoxide gas chamber at Treblinka. More than 400 people were shoved into a 125-square-foot room and, "within five minutes at the most, everybody stood dead," he said.

"There being no free space, they just leaned against each other," he said.

The Rev. Bonnie Brush of St. John's United Methodist Church read from a journalist's account of a Jewish ghetto.

"A cart was coming toward us, pushed and pulled by three men. Bloated corpses were heaped upon it, their heads bounding to a rhythm determined by muddy ruts in the road," Brush read. "Thus for the first time, we met death's partner, famine."

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