Remembrance: During Yizkor and Yom Hashoah we continue to remember our loved ones who no longer are with us. Many of them are Eternal Life-Hemshech’s founders. Many more are our Holocaust survivors’ family members brutally murdered by the Third Reich.
The survivors who settled in Atlanta in the 1940s and 50s came here with nothing in their pockets but had determination in their hearts to start anew. Their energy and resourcefulness as they settled into our community, built new lives and gave birth to new families continue to serve as testimony to the resilience of the human spirit.
After two decades, they realized the need for a place to mourn their lost loved ones. They had no gravesites to visit. In 1964, they designed, paid for and built Atlanta’s Memorial to the Six Million at Greenwood Cemetery. They finally had a communal gravesite to say Kaddish, to grieve and to ponder what might have been. Designed by our beloved survivor Ben Hirsch, z”l, past president of Hemshech, the memorial’s symbolism continues to inspire all who visit. In 2008, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Continuation: Hemshech, which means “continuation” in Hebrew, soon will begin restoration of the 54-year-old memorial, the centerpiece of Atlanta’s annual Yom Hashoah service. It inspires us to remember and to continue the mission bequeathed by Hemshech’s founders.
As new generations of survivors’ families and friends take leadership of our organization, we are compelled to continue our traditions that Hitler tried to destroy. Through our involvement in the history of the Holocaust we are leaving a permanent reminder to future generations that our founders were witnesses, and that we are preserving not only their memories but the heritage bequeathed us.
That heritage is epitomized by the Yiddish language, which breathed life into much of our culture across Europe. Had the Nazis not destroyed six million of us, the Times of Israel recently reported there would be more than 20 million Yiddish-speaking people in the world.
Today, Yiddish is labeled an endangered language spoken by small, cloistered groups of mostly Hasidic Jews. Yet, there is continuation elsewhere with renewed interest.
Recently, more than 100 scholars from 12 countries gathered for several days in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, for the International Commemorative Conference of Yiddish Culture and Language.
The Amherst, Mass. Yiddish Book Center’s 37,000 square foot building features an open Yiddish book repository, theaters, art galleries and museum exhibitions about Yiddish language and culture, and programs in literature, music, art, film and theater.
Emory University offers classes in Yiddish language, culture and literature.
In New York, the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the world’s longest continuously performing Yiddish theater frequently extends performances due to demand. This summer’s Yiddish-language production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” with rave reviews in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, continues to be extended, now to late October. For 103 years, Folksbiene performances have celebrated who we are and where we came from, despite Hitler’s attempts to destroy us.
Celebration: To launch 5779, Hemshech is bringing the Folksbiene Troupe in Mama’s Loshn Kugel, live from New York to Atlanta on Oct. 7. A second show at 3:30 p.m. has been added to the sold out 1 p.m. performance in the Woodruff Arts Center Rich Theatre. It will honor and pay tribute to our survivors, who are attending at no charge, thanks to generous sponsors. Proceeds will continue to support Holocaust scholarships and education and restoration of the Memorial to the Six Million.
October 7th promises to be an afternoon of Jewish music, laughter, warmth and fun guaranteed to touch our collective hearts and souls.
To learn more about Eternal Life-Hemshech, visit our website, www.eternallifehemshech.org.