As part of the events surrounding the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second World War, a large-scale educational online conference was organized and held on the 10th of May by YAHAD, FJC’s youth programming platform. The event was attended by a star-studded cast of notables from the FSU’s Jewish community, including Russia’s premier showman and television host — Ivan Urgant.
According to YAHAD’s Moscow-based coordinator Ms. Miriam Mayorova; “The fact that a public figure of Mr. Urgant’s stature joined in our commemorative service, is a point of great pride for us! It means that our philanthropic and cultural efforts do not go unnoticed by the cultural elites of the FSU, and helps to further shine a spotlight on our activities, thereby increasing public awareness of them even more.”
Prior to 2020, a yearly tradition saw one thousand Jewish youths from all corners of the FSU make a solemn pilgrimage to the memorial complex at Auschwitz-Birkenau in the weeks and days leading up to Victory in Europe Day, with the aim of paying homage to the memory of the victims as well as to commemorate the war-time heroism of the Soviet armed forces, which liberated the death camp in January of 1945. This year, due to the epidemiological concerns currently affecting the world, a decision was made to organize and conduct the event in an online format.
The main slogan chosen for this year’s commemorative events is; “Memory, means activism”. Accordingly, the main topic of the event was — youth activism and volunteer work — as the main aspect and most direct form of expression of feelings of respect and gratitude, for the generation that fought for the liberty of their Motherland, and finds itself in especially difficult circumstances in current times.
In addition to Mr. Urgant, the event was attended by a number of interesting guests and speakers, including luminaries from across the Jewish world including; Berel Lazar—the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Martha Kozlova—actress and star of the film “Anna’s War”, Yuli Edelstein – Minster of Health of Israel and former Speaker of the Knesset, Andrey Makarevich – accomplished musical artist and cultural icon.
“I want to take my children to Bergen-Belsen.” Mr. Ivan Urgent said during the event. “It seems to me they must feel something there, which in-turn will cause them to gain a new understanding of life and to consequently grow and become better as a human being. I can say for myself, that when I went there, the experience definitely did help me to grow as a human being.”
Musical artist Andrey Makarevich, said “I don’t want to repeat any of it ever again! I don’t want to see people dying, cities burning, and six million people to be annihilated simply because they’re Jews! We must do everything possible to ensure that nothing like this will ever repeat itself again!”
Chief Rabbi Barel Lazar, explained: “It is during such events that we must think, ‘What can we do to help another human being? How can we combat hatred?’ The answer is of-course; only when we will love one another. This answer is at the core of the spirit of Victory Day. Victory is therefore expressed by us continuing to carry forward the light of the human soul and willingness to lose everything just to help another human being,” he concluded.
According to YAHAD’s director, Rabbi Mendy Wilansky, the presence of such esteemed guests helped to bring a bit of light to an otherwise somber occasion. “Despite the tragic nature of the underlying historic events being commemorated, the main aim of the event is not to darken the mood of participants — but rather the opposite — to imbue them with a spirit of optimism, the idea that humanity has in itself the ability to recover from some of the darkest periods of its history. Because, one does not fight darkness by swinging a club, but rather by radiating light — the light of kindness and charity.”.