BELMONT > It’s called the Shoah or HaShoah in Hebrew, the Holocaust, a consuming fire of utter destruction.
Each year at this time, Jewish people worldwide honor Jews murdered in World War II. The approximate number is 6,000,000, with 1,500,000 of them children. Kids from the Hebrew school at Beth El Temple Center on Concord Avenue carry yellow bags home to their families. Inside is a prayer from the Rabbi and a yellow 24-hour candle to be lit on the evening of May 4 in honor of the Holocaust. Another letter from the Temple Brotherhood explains where contributions for the candles will go, for Holocaust remembrance, education or study.
Last year, the donations went to Boston 3G, grandchildren of survivors, a group which explains the significance of the Shoah to communities and schools. Its mottos are ““Never Forget” and “Never Again.” This year, the money goes to a city in the Ukraine.
Sixty million died in the fight against Nazism and fascism, including 400,000 Americans. In 2015, Jewish population once again equaled its numbers before 1941.
In the summer of 1941, the German Army conquered Poland and the city of Rovno, where 25,000 Jews lived. Nazi death squads arrived soon after, and murdered over 21,000 in a nearby forest, the rest herded into a ghetto, from which few survived.
After the war, the boundary for Ukraine moved west, so that Rovno became Ukrainian with the name of Rovna or Rivne. The Jewish population is 600.
One survivor of the Rovno massacre has lived in Belmont for decades. David Gorach was a young man when the Nazis arrived. He got through the war to find Rovno decimated. With others, he dedicated a stone memorial for the dead. Gorach eventually settled in America and raised a family here.
With Gorach and other survivors in mind, the Temple has pledged to help Rovno’s Jews. Six hundred is not a large community, but Rovno has a rabbi, a Hebrew school, a synagogue, as well as help for its aged. Chabad is a movement of Orthodox Jews, known for its outreach. Rabbis and their families settle in parts of the world, near and far, where Jews can find prayer and fellowship. In 2008, terrorists attacked the Indian city of Mumbai and singled out the Chabad Center, killing six, including the rabbi and his wife. The center reopened in 2014.
FJC Rabbi Shneur Schneerson and his wife have made their home in Rovno, aware of its tragic past. At the 70th anniversary of the massacre in the forest, Schneerson spoke: “And it is has been left to us to honor the memory of these Jews… killed for no other reason than that they were Jewish. We must perpetuate Jewish identity, so that the intent of the murderers is never realized.”
his past March, the Rabbi and his congregation celebrated the holiday of Purim. Set in ancient Persia, this story of survival has an underlying violence as troubling as the news of today.
Haman, a name synonymous with evil, perhaps predecessor of Hitler and the Nazis, convinces the Persian king to allow the annihilation of the Jews in his kingdom. One of the king’s wives, a Jewish woman named Esther, risks her life to plead for her people. The king lets the Jews defend themselves against Haman and his followers, who are killed.
In 1941 and throughout the war, the Nazis kept detailed records and took photographs, including at Rovno. They planned museums about a vanished people.