Uniting legislators, dignitaries, representatives and Jewish leaders, the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust held its annual “Days of Remembrance” event May 3, a day after Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Before the event, names of Holocaust victims were read aloud in the atrium of the Georgia Capitol building, as part of B’nai B’rith International’s “Unto Every Person There is a Name.”
Volunteers from the Jewish community took turns reading from a list of Holocaust victims provided by Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, recognizing their individual tragedies.
At 11 a.m. the ceremony began in the Georgia House chamber with the Atlanta Young Singers’ rendition of the Holocaust-inspired “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.”
Georgia Commission Executive Director Sally Levine began the ceremony with a brief opening statement, culminating with a single message, “Holocaust education reminds us of the danger of remaining silent.”
Gov. Brian Kemp followed with a proclamation, declaring the week of April 28 through May 5 Holocaust Days of Remembrance.
“I appreciate Gov. Kemp opening our ceremony,” said Michael Morris, AJT owner-publisher and member of the Georgia Commission. “His presence added the right mix of solemnity and commitment to our memorial.
Awards were then presented to a number of community members, beginning with the “Humanitarian Award” to Dr. Perry and Shirley Brickman.
“Like many of you probably, I didn’t know anything about the Holocaust even by the time I was bar mitzvahed,” Perry said in his remarks. “I was totally unaware until Shirley introduced me to her Holocaust survivor friends.”
She recounted an experience that stuck with her from giving tours at the William Bremen Jewish History Museum.
“We had a 12-year-old come in late to one of our exhibits. I watched him read every single caption there.”
She described how they discussed the immense suffering of the Holocaust, and how survivors made it through this horrible period of history.
“I told him, it took a lot of mazel, luck,” she said. “He said to me, ‘I wish you and all your people good mazel.’”
Two educators were recognized for their work in Holocaust education and 10 students for their leadership and community service.
One of two special recognitions was Paige Mathis of the Atlanta Young Singers, who received her recognition while on the balcony above the crowd, where her group was wowing the assembly with angelic compositions.
The second person recognized was Rufus Montgomery, president and CEO of Cascon Group LLC, for his work in Holocaust education and advocacy for Israel through AIPAC, where he serves on the national council.
Montgomery described his experience serving abroad, and even in Germany, and the impact that visiting the Dachau concentration camp had on him, and how the memory remained with him to this day.
Morris, who introduced the candlelighting with a responsive reading, shared his gratitude for this event.
“It is important to me that I’m able to stop and take some time every year to remember and reflect about the Holocaust and the 6 million Jewish lives lost. What better way to do it than to be there with survivors and hear firsthand stories of how the Holocaust affected members of our community.”
Six candles were then lit, each by a survivor or family members in remembrance of a loved one.
One by one the survivors’ stories were told by government officials, representatives, senators and dignitaries, and each was accompanied by a consul general to Georgia.
Berman Commons Chaplain Fred Glusman then recited “El Maleh Rachamim,” a prayer of remembrance, which was translated by Atlanta Rabbinical Association President and The Temple Rabbi Peter Berg.