By Michael Jacobs / firstname.lastname@example.org
Seventy years after the Nazi death camps were liberated, “we are sliding back into a past that we long thought we had left behind,” Holocaust survivor Murray Lynn warned a crowd gathered at the Besser Holocaust Memorial Garden on March 29.
But Lynn said the threat to Jews and to Western civilization in general is coming not just from Europe, which has never reformed itself or solved the problem of rabid anti-Semitism, but also from the Middle East, which he called the new flash point in a deadly conflict over ideas and values.
“All of us have a stake” in that battle, Lynn said.
That connection between the Holocaust and modern racial, ethnic and religious conflict was a central element of the event that brought hundreds of people to the Marcus Jewish Community Center that cold and sunny morning: Am Yisrael Chai’s Daffodil Dash. The event kicked off Georgia Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.
The fourth annual 5K run/walk and 1-mile dash/walk raised money and awareness for Holocaust education and for organizations that support children and families in Darfur, South Sudan and Rwanda, areas of ethnic slaughter in the past quarter-century.
Some 676 people officially signed up to run or walk a course that started at Georgia Perimeter College and ended at the Marcus JCC. The men’s race winner was Brandon London, while 17-year-old Elayna Harris of Dunwoody High won for the women.
“It’s a wonderful cause,” said Deborah Jackson of Tucker, who ran the 5K with son Charles. Such multigenerational participation was common.
Thousands of yellow daffodils on the JCC property were evidence of the work of the Daffodil Project, which has planted 180,000 daffodils toward the goal of creating a worldwide living Holocaust memorial of 1.5 million daffodils, one for each of the Jewish children killed in the Holocaust. The flowers’ shape and yellow color are reminiscent of the stars Jews were forced to wear under the Nazis, and their perennial nature reflects the resilience of the Jewish people.
“We can’t be broken by adversity,” Lynn said.
The biggest group at the Daffodil Dash came from the Epstein School, which had 121 members on its team and raised the most money, organizer Andrea Videlefsky announced during a brief awards ceremony. The Epstein team was led by Amy Kowalsky during her bat mitzvah weekend.
Other large teams included the Weber School, a combined group from Atlanta Jewish Academy and Congregation Ariel, Davis Academy, Temple Sinai, Congregation B’nai Torah, and two teams from the Marist School.
The top individual fundraiser was Natanya Naturman, one of several teenagers at the event who twinned their b’nai mitzvah celebrations with children who died in the Holocaust.
Children were the focus of the address by former South Sudanese Lost Boy Joseph Majak, who is a leader in the South Sudanese community in Clarkston.
“We have to stop killing children,” Majak said. “Children are angels.”
Lynn urged the crowd, especially the hundreds of teenagers, to stand up for what they know is right. “Don’t compromise your birthright,” he said. “Don’t be hobbled by fear.”
Photos by Michael Jacobs