Survivors to speak at Kristallnacht program
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Survivors to speak at Kristallnacht program

When the Fort Lee Jewish community Cong. Gesher Shalom-JCC of Fort Lee honored survivors of the Shoah at its dinner dance in June, shul leaders stressed that this was not a one-shot event, said congregant Doryne Davis.

"It was announced that there would be subsequent programs allowing first-hand accounts of the stories and experiences [of survivors] to be told," she said.


Survivors Helen and Henry Melin, shown here with their daughter Charlotte Klarfeld, were honored at the synagogue’s dinner dance in June and will speak at the shul’s Kristallnacht program.

Later this month, the synagogue will make good on that promise, "creating a forum for the telling of these stories while there is still time," according to Bruce Prince, the shul’s former director of synagogue growth and development.

"Last witnesses: Stories of survival and affirmation" — a commemorative program for Kristallnacht (which falls this year on Nov. 9) — will explore the phenomenon of survival through both presentations and first-hand accounts.

During Shabbat services on Oct. ‘7, Dr. Dennis Klein, professor of history&#8’3’;at Kean University and director of the school’s Jewish studies program, will introduce the topic, touching on different ways people escaped from the Nazis — whether through Kindertransport, surviving internment in concentration camps, escaping to Russia, or going into hiding. (Kindertransport was a rescue mission that brought nearly 10,000, mostly Jewish, children from Nazi Germany and other areas to safety in England.) He will also speak about partisan fighting, ghetto uprisings, and "survival through wits or luck," according to members of the commemorative committee.

On Sunday, Oct. ‘8, Dr. Clem Loew — chair of the commemorative committee and himself a Holocaust survivor — will introduce the day’s program, reading a short story about his childhood experiences evading the Nazis. Following his presentation, other congregants/survivors will offer their personal stories and be available to answer questions.

Loew, who came to the United States with his mother in 1949 (the rest of his family, except for one uncle, had been killed by the Nazis) and now lives in Fort Lee, said his story, "Apron," is a "slice of life," depicting his experience as a 6-year-old in wartime Poland. He called the work "creative nonfiction," chronicling such events as the capture of his grandmother when she returned to the family’s apartment to retrieve some valuables before fleeing. He noted as well that he spent two years sheltered in a convent outside of Warsaw, while his mother worked as a nanny for a Gestapo family — "under Christian papers."

In addition to presenting his story, Loew will exhibit 1′ black-and-white portrait photographs of Holocaust survivors, accompanied by short biographies of the people portrayed. "They’re from New York, California, Israel, and Italy," he noted, explaining that he took the photos himself and that the individuals shown (photographed as adults) were, at most, 1′ when the war ended.

"You hear a lot about the adults," he said, "but you don’t always hear about the children." He said he is planning to publish a book showing that "people who were children during the Holocaust were not disabled — in spite of the trauma — but have come back and have contributed much to society."

For further information, call the synagogue at (’01) 947-1735.

Other commemorations

Holocaust survivor Eric Mayer of Wayne will speak at a Kristallnacht commemoration sponsored by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey and Beth Haverim/Shir Shalom in Mahwah. Mayer will speak at the synagogue during kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday, Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m., describing his experiences as a Jewish boy coming of age in Hitler’s Third Reich. For information, call (’01) 684-7409.

Temple Beth El of Northern Valley and Temple Emanu-El, both in Closter, will mark Kristallnacht with a performance of "Better Don’t Talk" on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 4 p.m. at Temple Beth El. The musical drama, written and performed by Naava Piatka, is a tribute to her mother, Chayela Rosenthal, and her theatrical career in Nazi-occupied Europe. For information, call (’01) 768-511′.

—Beth Chananie

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