When Ner Zedek decided to close and merge with Shaare Shamayim, it brought along a Holocaust memorial, which honors victims and survivors.
When members of Congregations of Ner Zedek voted to close last December and merge with Congregations of Shaare Shamayim, a museum-quality Holocaust memorial was part of the deal.
On Dec. 12, Shaare Shamayim rededicated the memorial, which sits in the lobby of the synagogue, at 9768 Verree Road in Bustleton.
Among the guest speakers at the dedication ceremony were Laura Jacobs, the New York-based artist, and Itka Zygmuntowicz, a Holocaust survivor.
The piece, designed and sculpted by Jacobs and dedicated on May 4, 1997, features three tablets depicting the following themes:
• Destruction: Includes a shattered Star of David and smokestacks and a crematoria in a concentration camp.
• Abandonment: Includes an emaciated figure in a fetal position, behind barbed wire.
• Redemption: Includes a fist of resistance pulling barbed wire aside and an outstretched arm of a survivor reaching up toward the new regained freedom.
Jack Belitsky and Charlotte Rosenthal co-chaired the memorial committee.
“This beautiful artwork has found its forever home, God willing,” said Naomi Jarefsky, a member of the committee whose family sponsored a breakfast reception after the memorial unveiling.
Jacobs explained that her parents were married at Ner Zedek, which was located at 7520 Bustleton Ave. in Rhawnhurst. When she was commissioned to create the memorial, she was told to make something that moved people.
Zygmuntowicz, who was forced into the Auschwitz concentration camp at age 16, received a standing ovation. She told guests that love, kindness and honesty will lead to peace. She recalled what her mom told her just before leaving the teenager to be with her two younger children when the family was rounded up by the Nazis.
“Don’t become bitter and hateful,” she recalled her mom saying. “I live by that advice. I love everybody.”
On the wall near the memorial are two plaques, one recognizing the original contributors and the other memorializing Dorothy Hollander Titman, sponsored by her family.
Another plaque memorializes Shirley and Morris Kraft. The Shirley and Morris Kraft Fund for Educational Activities includes Holocaust programs and commemorations and Jewish education.
“They instilled in me the importance of education. Never forget the past in order to improve the future,” said Bobbi Kraft, their daughter.
Victims and survivors of the Holocaust were honored with a candle-lighting ceremony. Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham and cantor Don Samuels led the congregation in prayers and song, with the memorial unveiled during a singing of Hatikvah. ••