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Beth-El Cemetery Opens New Russian-Jewish Memorial

Sixty years after the end of the World War II, Beth-El Cemetery in Glendale opened a new memorial on May 15 dedicated to Russian Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust. The dedication ceremony at the new Memorial Garden marked the anniversary of the Russian defeat of the Hitler’s army in 1945. The memorial provides the estimated 300,000 Russian Jews living in New York City with a place to gather and remember their loved ones, in the cemetery at 80-12 Cypress Hills Street in Queens. The $73,000 memorial was paid for by the Temple Emanu-El of the City of New York. “It is a place where we can remember our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents,” said Rabbi Menahem Zarkh of Temple Emanu-El, who acts a liaison with the Russian community. Families will be able to inscribe up to 17,000 names of their fallen relatives on six columns hewn from 30 tons of black granite. Steeped in symbolism, the six columns surround a seven-and-a-half foot-high centerpiece of the Star of David topped with an obelisk and sculpture of an eternal flame, making a total of seven pieces. The significance of seven includes the seven days of creation. Shavuot is also observed on the seventh day of Sivan, and there are seven patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. The obelisk represents memorials – similar to crosses on Christian graves – that were hastily placed on graves in Russia during the war. “It is something that as Russians we recognize immediately,” said Zarkh. The monument will include an inscription in both Russian and English: “An everlasting memorial to our veterans, our families, our loved ones.” The memorial will help unite American and Russian Jews, said Alla Lisovetsky, general manager of the Nevsky memorial chapel. “It is very symbolic that this gift was given by the given by the temple; in the house of God everyone is equal – there is no rich and there is no poor,” Lisovetsky said. “The temple builds a bridge between American Jews and Russian Jews,” Lisovestsky said. “We are one people but we all know that there are certain dividers between us.” The memorial provides a place for many Russian Jews whose relatives have no grave, because many of the war dead were not recovered and many more were in cemeteries on the Russian Front that were destroyed during the war. “I happen to be from a family that fled the Czar in the 1880s,” said Bernard Breslin, Cemetery Committee chair, who first conceived of the memorial. “My family has always had a place to go to honor and respect our relatives. There is a bond between us all and in the Jewish tradition of visiting our relatives, we wanted to extend that to people who have come here recently because of the war and the internal conflict in the Soviet Union have only a memory.” Some eight million Soviet troops fell in battle or died as prisoners of war, and 12 million civilians perished, including three million Jews. “It makes us feel welcome,” said Zarkh. “I may feel welcome for the first time.” Reverend Terry Troia and Robert Peterson, members of the Consistory Board of Elders, Pam Ander, Faith Avila, Louise Fabiszak and Susan Hanyen along with the Board of Deacons, Erik Ander, Suzanne Carrior, Lorie Honore and Rose Lood, honored four men at the New Utrecht Church Services. The honorees included Councilman Vincent Gentile, a native Brooklynite, Robert Peters, choir director, organist and spiritual leader for New Utrecht Church, Bruce Hodgman, an associate of the Church who has preached from time to time and Rocco Armacida who served as an elder and deacon of the church in 1981. New Utrecht Reformed Church is located at 1831 84th Street.

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