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Life before war focus of community Yom HaShoah commemoration

Holocaust survivor Walter Feiger, right, lights a candle with his partner, Nancy Alexander, and Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Congregation Or Chadash.

The community-wide 2019 Yom HaShoah commemoration on Sunday, May 5 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center focused on highlighting Jewish life and culture before the Holocaust. Rather than rehearse the political miscalculations and complicity of European nations or the mechanics of Nazi genocidal violence, says Bryan Davis, executive director of the Jewish History Museum/Holocaust History Center, the commemoration focused on the diverse and vibrant Jewish culture that was destroyed. In an anteroom to the ballroom, a slideshow of photographs collected from local families presented a range of Jewish life, while a musician played Yiddish-inflected motifs on a violin. Video testimonies from numerous local Holocaust survivors and their children were interspersed throughout the program. The testimonies represented the life, color, differences, and flavor of Jewish life in the early 20th century. A pianist played melodies from the pre-war Jewish songbook.

A candle-lighting ceremony was at the heart of the commemoration. A six-armed candelabra representing the six million murdered Jews was lit by local Holocaust survivors. Additional candles were lit to acknowledge the unknown victims of Nazism and to honor the Righteous Among the Nations.