Holocaust Memorial Service in Skokie on April 15

Sheerit Hapleitah of Metropolitan Chicago, the umbrella organization for Chicago-area Holocaust survivor groups, will sponsor the 62nd annual collective memorial observance on Sunday, April 15. The service, traditionally the largest gathering of Holocaust survivors in the Midwest and one of the largest in the United States, will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue, 8825 East Prairie Ave, in Skokie.

“Unfortunately, anti-Semitism continues to increase around the world, to the point where it is acceptable in some countries to equate Israel with Nazi Germany,” said Charles Lipshitz, president of Sheerit Hapleitah. “Those of us who experienced the horror of Auschwitz and the other camps know better, which is why we hold this service every year. For those who think this is less relevant, I remind them that marchers chanting ‘Death to the Jews’ are tolerated in countries that are supposed to be our allies, and a poll of Europeans found the majority believed that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace.”

“Once again the children of survivors will reaffirm their commitment to sustaining our parents’ legacy,” said Larry Schwartz, president of the Association of Children of Holocaust Survivors. “We are rapidly approaching the day when there will be no more eyewitnesses to the Nazi horror left to offer testimony, which could blunt the effectiveness of our mission to inform the world that genocide is not only possible but that it happened only a short time ago. The Children of Survivors, with our many supporters, are not going to let that happen.

Speakers at the 2007 service will include Baruch Bina, Israeli consul general; Mayor George Van Dusen of Skokie; Rabbi Gerald Teller, spiritual leader of the synagogue; Charles Lipshitz and Larry Schwartz. Officials of the Jewish War Veterans, Skokie Post 328, will also participate. As part of the ceremony, a grandchild of survivors will pay tribute to the enormous contribution of Holocaust survivors to the Chicago community in passing their legacy of courage to future generations.

A high point of the service is the candle-lighting ceremony honoring the 6 million victims, including 1.2 million children, who perished in the Holocaust. This year’s ceremony will be conducted by Sherry Rubinstein Warso of Dor Ledor, the Young Leadership Division of Sheerit Hapleitah, and past Vice President Barbara Pryor, with the participation by children and grandchildren of local-area Holocaust survivors. Proclamations by Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago will be read by committee members.

The village of Skokie is symbolic to Sheerit Hapleitah’s efforts to sustain the memory of the Holocaust. When the American Nazi Party chose Skokie in 1978 for the site of its infamous demonstration, Sheerit Hapleitah helped lead the opposition, with the assistance of former Mayor Albert J. Smith and the village trustees. The struggle was portrayed in a made-for-television movie starring Danny Kaye. Sheerit Hapleitah later led the movement to construct a monument in memory of the Holocaust victims on the Skokie village green on land donated by the village and from funds collected from area individuals and synagogues and the Jewish United Fund.

The sculpture by Edward Chesney, depicting three generations, torn prayer books, a menorah and other items symbolizing the destruction of European Jewry, was unveiled on May 31, 1987. That night, the memorial received worldwide attention after it was desecrated with spray paint including the epithet “Jew liars” and other messages of hate.

“This insidious act made the message on the dedication plaque even more meaningful, said Lipshitz. “It reads, ‘This monument will remain in perpetuity as a reminder of what hate can do to mankind if decent people are not vigilant to forestall such a calamity in the future.’”

Sheerit Hapleitah includes the following groups: Association of Descendants of the Shoah-Illinois Inc.; Hofesh Chapter – NAAMAT; Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois; Jewish Lithuanian Club of Chicago; Laor Organization; Maccabi Sports Organization; Midwest Chestochover Society; New Citizens Club; Workman”s Circle; the United Chicago Jews of Hungarian Descent Inc.; Association of Child Survivors; Dr. Janusz Korczak; B’nai Brith Lodge; and Dor Ledor.