NEW YORK (Oct. 2)
“The Last March 1939-1945,” a dramatic wall sculpture that commemorates the millions who died in the Holocaust, was dedicated at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in ceremonies here Sunday. More than 500 Jewish leaders and government officials attended the ceremonies.
The Seminary also announced the establishment of an Institute for the Study of European Jewry to examine the impact of the Holocaust on second generation survivors and the contemporary Jewish world.
Dr. Gerson Cohen, the Seminary’s chancellor, said the Institute, which will be housed in the Seminary, is being established to focus the same attention on recent Jewish history that Jews have traditionally devoted to the more distant past, such as the Biblical, rabbinic and medieval periods.
‘IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO MOURN THE DEAD’
“It is not enough to mourn the dead,” Cohen said. “Nor is nostalgia for what was destroyed of real help. Remembering involves digesting the experience so that it becomes part of the personal history of each of us, and of the collective memory of the society.”
He pointed out that “we must begin to investigate the factors in 19th century Jewish culture that made it a target for the Nazis and their colleagues. Was it their dignity and self-respect, the cultural richness of music, art and literature that they surrounded themselves with, or their relentless search for knowledge, education and self-betterment that allowed each generation to stand on the substance of those who came before?”
MUST KNOW AND UNDERSTAND
Menachem Rosensaft, chairman of the Holocaust Dedication Committee and founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, said that in order to perpetuate the memory of six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust “it is not enough for us to recall the inferno in which they perished. Rather, we must first know and understand who they had been in normal times, before they became immersed in death and horror.”
Continuing, Rosensaft said: “We must educate ourselves about the entire multi-faceied culture of Eastern and Central European Jewry which was destroyed together with the six million kedoshim of the Holocaust. We must learn about and try to see the synagogue, yeshivas and Jewish homes that were engulfed by fire, as well as the words and songs of those who gave these buildings their spirit and their significance.
“In other words, let us not sanctify the flames of Auschwitz or the gas chambers of Treblinka. These were the instruments of absolute evil, and we may not allow our commemoration of the Holocaust to become an obsession with evil.”
“The Last March” was commissioned and financed by Dallas philanthropist Paul Lewis, who has dedicated his life to establishing memorials and monuments to the Holocaust throughout the United States.
Lewis, a Polish immigrant, established the first such memorial in Dallas’ Temple Shearith Israel in 1959. Since then, he has been the force behind 16 similar tributes. Over the years, Lewis has been honored by Zionist and Jewish organizations as well as by the Israeli government. In 1969, he established the first chair for the study of the Holocaust at Yeshiva University in New York City.