Religions and Spirituality

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South Orange - Maplewood Interfaith Holocaust Memorial Service April 27


SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, 432 Scotland Road, South Orange, will host the 37th annual South Orange/Maplewood Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service on Sunday, April 27 at 4 PM.  The March of Remembrance precedes the service at 3 PM from Grove Park, South Orange, to the synagogue. 

This year, the Remembrance Service features original dramatic narrative, based on the testimony of 20 local men and women who survived the Holocaust.  The program recalls experiences in Nazi work camps and death camps, hiding under the protection of Gentile neighbors and friends, escapes to neutral or Allied countries, and United States military service with the Monuments Men. 

The creative expression of the collective survivor stories is the result of a collaborative effort by Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (TSTI) Cantors Rebecca Moses and Joan Finn, and congregant Russell Kaplan. Community residents, among them professional and non-professional actors from South Orange and Maplewood houses of worship, as well as Seton Hall University theatre students, will participate.   Musical selections will accompany the readings, and will encompass a wide variety of genres and melodies. Voices in Harmony, an interfaith chorus directed by long-time South Orange resident Cantor Perry Fine, will also perform during the service.

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South Orange resident Beth Randall Branigan, a co-chair of the organizing committee, said, “Our Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service was established in 1977 as the first of its kind in New Jersey by the late Sister Rose Thering of Seton Hall University, the late Rabbi Jehiel Orenstein of Congregation Beth-El and my father, the late Max Randall, president of South Mountain B’nai B’rith.  We are proud of the way in which our committee has been able to continue this important and meaningful community commemoration for nearly 40 years, particularly as we witness an ongoing need to encourage understanding and tolerance among people of different religious traditions.”

The committee is also co-chaired by Maplewood residents Jim Ferruggiaro, a parishioner at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, and Eve Morawski, daughter of a Polish Catholic Holocaust survivor. Her late father Michael was a leader of the citywide Warsaw Uprising of 1944, and subsequently was decorated with Poland’s highest military honor.

According to TSTI Cantor Moses, “It has been a privilege to have this opportunity to create a dramatic presentation around the despair, agony and ultimate redemption of Holocaust survivors, righteous Gentiles and Army liberators. Along with the Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance committee, TSTI Rabbi Daniel Cohen, Rabbi Ellie Miller, Cantor Finn and I look forward to bringing our community closer through the memories of these extraordinary men and women.”

TSTI congregant Deborah Green Taffet and her family will accompany her mother, a survivor of Auschwitz, Birkenau and a slave labor ammunitions factory in Salzwedel, Germany, with the congregation’s Holocaust Torah, saved from Europe following WWII.  As the program begins, members of the community who lost relatives or who themselves are descendants of survivors will be invited to light “Chai” candles. The word “chai,” means life, and according to Hebrew mystical tradition is symbolized by the number 18. 

This year, the Remembrance Service committee will honor South Orange Middle School art teacher Ellen Hark with the Sister Rose Thering Holocaust Education Award, recognizing Ms. Hark’s commitment to Sister Rose’s belief that education will make the world a more tolerant place.  For several years, Ms. Hark has coordinated an exhibit of original interpretive artwork by students, inspired by their conversations with Holocaust survivors.  On April 27, the artwork will be displayed in TSTI’s Green Social Hall, which is where Ms. Hark’s Award will be presented following the service.

Clergy from nearly 20 Jewish, Catholic and Protestant houses of worship in South Orange and Maplewood, as well as officials from both communities and long-time associates of the SOMA Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance service will be present. 

Eleven million men, women and children – including six million Jews and five million Polish Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Slavs, Roma (gypsies), homosexuals, disabled children and adults and political dissidents – were brutally murdered during the Holocaust.

The Remembrance Service is free of charge and open to the public. The community is encouraged to bring cans and boxes of non-perishable food donations to the event for later distribution by the Food Bank of New Jersey.  For more details and background, contact the organizers at or visit

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