70 Days for 70 Years launches in Valley

The dimly lit social hall at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus set the tone for the Jan. 26 launch of 70 Days for 70 Years, a worldwide Holocaust memorial program coordinated locally by the Phoenix Community Kollel.

As participants entered the room, they were handed a memorial tribute card, with the name of a victim of the Holocaust, along with their age, birthplace and where they died.

The name on my card is Berl Rosenberg, who was 31 when he died in Auschwitz. The irony that this was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz didn’t escape me. Had he been among the survivors, who knows what his life would have been like, how many children and grandchildren he may have had.

The names on the cards are from Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names. When I went to look up Berl Rosenberg to see if there was more information, there was none. Just his name, along with a note that he was born in 1913, resided in Teresva, Czechoslovakia, and that he was murdered.

Holocaust survivor Dr. Alexander B. White of Scottsdale speaks to nuns from the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary at the Phoenix Community Kollel's launch of 70 Days for 70 Years. Photo by Hershl Weberman

Holocaust survivor Dr. Alexander B. White of Scottsdale speaks to nuns from the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary at the Phoenix Community Kollel’s launch of 70 Days for 70 Years. Photo by Hershl Weberman

“We are commemorating the tragic loss of 6 million souls – men, women and children, ” said Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, president of 70 Days for 70 Years, in a video shown at the beginning of the Monday night program. “The numbers are unimaginable. The danger is that all those victims could become mere statistics.”

The worldwide project aims “to ensure that as many of those victims as possible – each of them who had a story, a family, a life – are remembered,” said Rabbi Andrew Shaw, director of 70 Days for 70 Years, in the video.

Through the 70-day program, participants read an essay of specifically selected Jewish content every day, in memory of a victim. The book of essays is being distributed globally and the essays are on the program’s website.

“Seventy years ago, a third of our people were gathered together and murdered,” Shaw said in the video. “Let’s gather together again, but this time to learn, to learn in the memory of those who died and to learn for our future.”

The Phoenix launch featured local survivor Dr. Alexander B. White, 92, who spoke about his experience during the Holocaust. (He also writes about the experience of being on Schnindler’s list in his autobiography, “Be a Mensch.”)

“Survivors don’t need a day to remember,” White told the standing-room-only audience. “We remember it every day and night.”

But it’s necessary for everybody else to remember the indifference of Germans and even the U.S. to allow Hitler to do what he did, he said. If somebody sees a group of people becoming a victim, one has to stand up. “You have to be a mensch and not forget what could happen if you maintain indifference.”

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