The 44th Annual Remember & Tell South Orange /Maplewood Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service will go virtual on Sunday, April 18.

The SOMA annual interfaith observance, the first of its kind in New Jersey, began in 1977.  It is dedicated to the memory of the millions of victims of the unprecedented murders that took place during the darkest period of 20th century history, the Holocaust. Every year, the service gives a platform to individuals who were witnesses and survivors.  These people share their stories and messages of personal experiences with the community.  Most of the surviving witnesses to the Holocaust were children during the Second World War.  Their experience reflects the direst consequences of prejudice and hate along with the power of members of their communities to step up and save lives. 

In 2020, for the first time, the Service was cancelled, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This year, the Committee that plans the remembrance was determined to hold the service but recognized the need to completely re-think it for a virtual showing.  They focused on what makes this particular remembrance special and unique, and built it from there.  Key elements, like the focus on the survivors themselves, and the involvement of the community’s clergy from different congregations and different faiths, were included.  The many contributors each videotaped short segments, which were then compiled into a single 1½-hour service.  The program will “go live” on April 18 at 4 p.m., but viewers will be able to see the video anytime afterward on the SOMA Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service’s own website, rememberandtell.org, or on YouTube.

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At each year’s Holocaust Remembrance Service, the Sister Rose Thering Holocaust Education Award is presented.  The Award was established in memory of the late Seton Hall University professor, Rose Thering.  Sister Rose dedicated her life to fighting prejudice through awareness, education and cooperation.  She wrote her doctoral dissertation on anti-Semitic text in Catholic school textbooks.  This work was taken to Vatican II and profoundly influenced the drafting of Nostra Aetate.

This year, the Award will be bestowed upon Fred Heyman, 92, who has spoken to countless groups about his experiences in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust and has joined students from all over New Jersey on more than 100 bus trips to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.  

Also receiving the Award is Cantor Erica “Rikki” Lippitz, who has been the Cantor at Oheb Shalom Congregation since 1987, when the Jewish Theological Seminary invested two women as cantors, including Cantor Lippitz, for the first time in the history of the Conservative Jewish movement.  Cantor Lippitz has played a vital role in the Holocaust Remembrance Service for much of its long history and she is being honored as she embarks on her retirement.

The Annual Interfaith Holocaust Memorial service was established in 1977 by Max Randall (z”l) of Maplewood, Rabbi Jehiel Orenstein (z”l) of Congregation Beth El in South Orange, and Sister Rose Thering from Seton Hall University.

For 43 years the two towns of South Orange and Maplewood have come together to remember the Holocaust and to vow to use the power within us to be vigilant and to protest continuing discrimination and genocide.  

For more information, go to www.rememberandtell.org or email rememberandtellsoma@gmail.com.