U.N. Secretary General, among many, pay respects at Holocaust Remembrance Day
By Anam Baig
The U.N. International Holocaust Commemoration Sabbath took place Saturday, Jan. 21 at the Park East Synagogue, where the year’s first snowfall marked the memory of the six million who lost their lives during the Holocaust.
Nearly 200 people attended the event, including 63 diplomats from organizations such as the U.N., UNESCO and the E.U., representing 33 countries. Addressing the congregation were U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and U.N. General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser. The commemoration was led by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, spiritual leader of Park East Synagogue for over 40 years, who is a Holocaust survivor.
The U.N.’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day is Jan. 27, and this year the General Assembly will remember children who perished during the Holocaust.
But at the Sabbath, Jan. 21, multitudes of ethnicities and religions gathered in a house of worship to exalt the countless victims of Nazi rule and to remind themselves that there is continuing injustice in the world. The event also marked the anniversary of the closing of Auschwitz, the biggest Nazi concentration camp that claimed the lives of over 1 million people.
The Sabbath prayers were made early in the morning and the diplomats streamed in around 10 a.m. Despite the snow, many people showed up to offer their prayers and support for the victims of hate and discrimination.
Countries as different as Australia, Korea, Sweden and Morocco were present at this commemoration. Every man donned a kippah before entering the synagogue, symbolizing their respect for the Jewish faith and for the house of worship that they entered.
The commemoration ceremony began with Schneier addressing the congregation. He asked all of the Holocaust survivors in the room to rise. Although there were only a few scattered amongst the many in attendance, it was a powerful moment to see these aged survivors shakily stand up and reveal their brutal pasts.
“Hear the cry of the oppressed,” he urged the congregation. “Silence and indifference by the free world undermines the survival of the victims.”
Ban also expressed his feeling about the event. In his address, he thanked Schneier for continuing to teach the world about the important lessons of the Holocaust and for being a voice for interfaith peace and understanding.
“The Holocaust affected so many different groups and so many professions that it is vital to reach new audiences with this history,” he said in his speech. “Our work for human dignity will underpin all we do. And our memory of the years when that dignity was torn from so many millions—so fast, so brutally—is likewise part of the bedrock from which we operate.
Let us all work together today to realize human dignity for all and to realize the U.N.’s full potential in building the future we want.”
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