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Forest Hills congregation remembers Kristallnacht

Congregation Machane Chodosh in Forest Hills remembered the events of Kristallnacht Sunday night with the lighting of six candles used to represent the Holocaust and a series of moving speeches by leaders from across the city Jewish community.

Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass,” was one of the first major anti-Jewish events of the late 1930s in Nazi Germany and Austria and was described after the service by Holocaust survivor Eva Lux Braun as “the beginning of the end.”

On Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, dozens of Jews were killed in massive pogroms throughout the two countries and thousands were arrested and taken to concentration camps by Gestapo, the SS and other Nazi groups.

Kristallnacht is remembered every year on its anniversary and renowned rabbi Paysach Krohn led the congregation in a lengthy, impassioned sermon which told the story of several Jews who managed to perform mitzvahs and adhere to Jewish commandments and traditions despite the extreme conditions in which they were forced to live during the years of the Final Solution, during which 6 million Jews died.

The theme of the sermon was that if they were able to stay true to the principles and practices of Judaism while under such extreme persecution — some Jews even made menorahs by placing two four-pronged forks side-by-side and dipping the tips in wax in order to properly celebrate Hanukkah inside concentration camps — then Jews living today in America should follow their example and do the same.

“If they kept their mitzvahs ... in the worst of times, what should we be doing in the best of times? I’m not talking about the recession. I’m talking about being free here in America,” Krohn said.

The evening also commemorated the 10th anniversary of the designation of the corner of 67th Road and 108th Street as “Holocaust Memorial Corner.”

Borough President Helen Marshall and former Borough President Claire Shulman, both of whom helped make the corner a reality, were presented with awards for their “dedicated efforts to preserving the memory and the legacy of the Holocaust” during the service.

The service was also a vehicle to showcase an exhibit organized by Ricky Schneider, the congregation’s director of youth programs, entitled “Where Did All the Children Go?” in memory of the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust. It featured information about and photos of children killed in countries across Europe. Created with the assistance of the congregation’s youths, the exhibit also featured artwork created in memoriam of all the children who died.

Schneider said he thinks people from all walks of life can learn a useful lesson from the legacy of Kristallnacht and apply it within their own communities.

“What I would hope anyone would get out of this is just the knowledge that even just a little hatred can lead to much worse things,” he said. “That’s the message of Kristallnacht.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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