Exactly eleven candles flickered in the Jubilee Auditorium on Sunday, April 14 during the 36th Annual Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service to represent the millions of innocent people who perished under the cruelty of the Holocaust.
Seton Hall played host to the South Orange/Maplewood Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Committee’s service to commemorate and honor victims. The service and reception were part of the Building Bridges program at the University, which encourages Jewish-Christian unity.
The event, which is normally held at different houses of worship each year, took place for the first time in Jubilee Hall. Among attendees were members of more than 20 different Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic communities throughout South Orange and Maplewood.
According to 25-year attendees Abraham and Janice Bunis, the ceremony at Jubilee was an especially “marvelous” experience. The number 36 in Jewish culture is “almost magic” as it holds special meaning in religious tradition.
This year’s guest speaker was Larry Pantirer, son of Schindler’s List survivor Murray Pantirer. Margie Freeman, an area resident, started the ceremony by sounding the sacred shofar, a ram’s horn, which represents tradition that goes back centuries in Jewish culture. The Voices of Harmony, an interfaith choral ensemble from Essex County, sang during the Mass in a performance designed specifically for this service.
Other participants in the ceremony included 11 representatives of the 11 million Jews who were murdered in death camps. Other candles were lit for new numbers that have recently surfaced revealing more deaths than originally calculated. The 11 representatives were survivors of the Holocaust who were mostly young children at the time. Many have written books about their life experiences.
Polish Catholic Holocaust survivor Bozenna Urbanowicz Gilbride was invited to the ceremony to represent non-Jewish victims. “We don’t see the world getting any better, hate still exists,” she said. “It is important for us who survived to tell the story.” Gllbride is a co-author of the novel “Children of Terror,” which details the experiences of being a young girl during the Holocaust.
According to Gilbride, it is important to educate the younger generations on how to stop the hate that causes the violence that the world seen throughout history, and still continues today.
“I believe the devil exists… he will win the battle,” she said. This is why it is important to reach out to the younger generation, she said.
Holocaust survivors attended a reception on the fourth floor of Jubilee along with student volunteers where many shared their personal experiences.
One of the youngest survivors, Paulette R. Dorflaufer, was originally from France and travels to many different events sharing her story, but this was her first time at this service. Dorflaufer was put in an OSC orphanage during the Holocaust and told that her entire family was killed in a camp. She was eventually adopted and traveled to America, but found out in 1971 at the French Embassy that she had a first cousin and two brothers and sisters still living. She is a resident of New Jersey. “It is important to meet and speak at events like this because we’re dying off,” she said.
Zeta Beta Tau, a national Jewish fraternity at Seton Hall, helped work and organize the event. The program was funded by Sister Rose Thering Fund of Seton Hall.
“We, as a fraternity have an obligation and responsibility to give back to the community in an impactful manner, and I really think that we served the South Orange- Maplewood community well in participating at the service,” Matthew Fantau said. The fraternity has been helping with the Sister Rose Thering fund, but this was the first time hosting the Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service.
“Our generation will be the last to live in the presence of survivors, so it is very important that we soak up as much information as we can, so we can educate future generations of this terrible event in world history,” Fantau said.
Mary Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.