SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Congregation Beth Israel (18 Shalom Way, Scotch Plains) will commemorate the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht on Friday, Oct. 28, at 7:30 p.m. The remembrance ceremony will feature a presentation by synagogue member Peter Fleischmann, who will share his personal experiences as a Holocaust survivor. The program will take place during CBI’s Friday night Shabbat services and is free and open to the community. 

Kristallnacht, which translates as “crystal night” in German, is also called the "Night of Broken Glass." Kristallnacht refers to the violent attacks that the Nazis waged against Jews on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, throughout Germany, Austria and parts of occupied Czechoslovakia. The name Kristallnacht comes from the broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish homes, schools, synagogues and stores were damaged and destroyed. With Jews beaten, killed and sent to concentration camps, Kristallnacht is often seen as the beginning of the Holocaust.

Guest speaker Peter Fleischmann was born in the Sudetenland, the area of Czechoslovakia that, in 1938, was the first step in Hitler's expansion plans that eventually led to World War II. On Kristallnacht, the synagogue in his home town was torched. From 1938 to 1941, Peter and his family survived the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and its restrictive Nuremberg laws, until they were given help to leave Prague and eventually come to New York.

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“On our trip half-way around the world from Czechoslovakia to New York, my family was helped along the way by many generous people who didn’t stand idly by when they saw what was happening,” said Peter.  “I want to tell my story to the next generation so that they understand the importance of taking on responsibility and acting against wrongs in this world.”

The memorial program is sponsored by the synagogue’s Second/Third Generation Holocaust Survivors Group.  This support group was created at Congregation Beth Israel and plans events, such as the Kristallnacht Remembrance, to educate the public about the Holocaust and to honor and remember those who suffered and perished.

“As there were many of us in the area whose parents or grandparents survived the Holocaust, we decided to reach out and form a community to share stories and learn even more about this dark time in our history,” said Rita Geller, a co-founder of the Second/Third Generation Holocaust Survivors Group. “We are being proactive to plan programs, since so few Holocaust survivors are alive to tell their stories. We need to ensure these memories are passed on to future generations.”

For additional information about the program, contact Faye Bodenstein (frgbnj@aol.com), Claire Bornstein (clairebn@comcast.net) or Rita Geller (rmgeller@comcast.net), or call the synagogue office at (980) 889-1830.

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