The 34th annual South Orange/Maplewood Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service will be held at Congregation Beth-El, 222 Irvington Avenue, South Orange, on Sunday evening, May 1, beginning at 7:00 PM. 

The 2011 Interfaith Service will feature speaker Harry Ettlinger, a German Jew who, with his immediate family, was able to come to the United States in October 1938, only four weeks before Kristallnacht (“Night of the Broken Glass”). Mr. Ettlinger, drafted into the American Army, returned to Europe as an Infantry replacement, and on his 19th birthday in January 1945, was pulled out from troops going to the front. Fluent in German and English, he had been reassigned as an interpreter, scheduled to participate in the Nuremberg trials.  In the beginning of May 1945, however, he found himself in Munich, where he volunteered his services to the “Monuments Men.” This very small group became instrumental in saving and returning millions of artistic treasures and documents.

“The Nazis and the Japanese started World War II,” Mr. Ettlinger said. “They not only caused the loss of tens of millions lives, but in the process, the Nazis perpetrated on the continent of Europe the greatest plunder and destruction in the history of civilization.”

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Mr. Ettlinger, who is also a co-chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, is the last of the Monuments Men to speak in front of public audiences. 

The Interfaith Remembrance Service is open to the public, and is free of charge.  As in years past, it will be preceded at 6:15 PM by the traditional Walk of Remembrance, this year from the central flagpole in South Orange Village to Congregation Beth-El. 

This year again, the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges will place a food donation box at the entrance of the synagogue, and the community is encouraged to bring cans and boxes of non-perishable food, or make monetary contributions to the Interfaith Food Pantry.

Interpretative artwork depicting themes of the Holocaust and perceptions based on conversations with survivors, created by students in the South Orange/Maplewood school district, will be exhibited at Congregation Beth-El the evening of the Interfaith Service.  Selected essays, written by middle and high school students from the community, will be included in the program booklet distributed on May 1.  The essays reflect presentations made to the students by Holocaust survivors.

Clergy from nearly 20 Jewish, Catholic and Protestant houses of worship in the South Orange/Maplewood community will offer prayers and hymns at the Interfaith Remembrance Service.  During the Service, the 2011 Sister Rose Thering Education Award, inaugurated in 2006 to honor the late Sister Rose Thering, a founder of the annual South Orange/Maplewood service, will presented to Congregation Beth-El, in recognition of its contribution to interfaith understanding.

First held in 1977, the program is inspiration of the late Sister Rose Thering, Rabbi Jehiel Orenstein and the late Max Randall and David Altholz of B’nai B’rith.  In the years since, survivors, Army liberators and righteous gentiles – those who protected and saved Holocaust victims – have been honored at the interfaith service, held at a different synagogue or church each year.

Additional details on the South Orange/Maplewood Interfaith Remembrance are available by contacting rememberandtell@yahoo.com.