Bushey Synagogue’s Yom HaShoah Evening of Remembrance 2017
This year’s Yom HaShoah Evening of Remembrance at Bushey Synagogue was a most moving experience attended by large audience including friends and neighbours representing other faith or community groups, the Mayor and Mayoress of Hertsmere, the Vice Lord Lieutenant for Hertfordshire and several local councillors.
The evening started with the traditional candle lighting ceremony conducted by the children of the community and was followed by an evocative account by Adam Grossman of his reflections on his recent trip to Poland with Yavneh School.
The communal prayer and silent reflection led into the singing of Psalm 121 and ‘El Malei Rachamim’ followed by a poignant recitation of Kaddish by survivor Josef Perl.
The guest speakers were Dr Barbara Warnock, Education and Outreach Manager at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide and Sabina Miller, herself a holocaust survivor.
Barbara Warnock’s illustrated talk outlined the origins of the Wiener Library and its collections through a selection of photographs and documents. Many of the audience will have been inspired to visit and to see for themselves how the library serves that part of its mission ‘to be a living memorial to the evils of the past by ensuring that our wealth of materials is put at the service of the future’.
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the rendition of Sabina Miller’s story of her survival, so movingly narrated by her daughter Sandra with Sabina herself contributing her memories and answering questions. Sabina was born in Warsaw in 1922 into a family of four children. Her childhood was a happy one, until in her teens the family was moved into the Warsaw ghetto, where, Sabine believes her parents died of typhus. Her older brother paid a Polish man to smuggle her and her younger brother out of the ghetto to live with their aunt in the countryside. Against her aunt’s wishes, Sabine went to work on a farm with other Jewish girls. When lorries came to take away the girls, Sabina and another girl, Ruzka, made the decision to run away into the forest. Living in a trench, they would go to nearby farms under cover of darkness to beg for food. Advised not to go together, they took it in turns to venture away from their hiding place, but one night Ruzka did not return. Completely on her own, Sabine’s great fortitude and resilience helped her to survive before being offered the chance to assume a farmer’s daughter’s identity and worked as forced labour under Germany.
‘When the war ended I thought I was the last Jew in Europe’. Her only link to her parents and siblings is a red cardigan given to her by her mother, which she wore during her time as a fugitive. Today, a sprightly 94 year old, she is a great grandmother and cherishes her family. It is clear from Sandra’s presentation of her mother’s story, that her family cherish her. Her remarkable story will remain in the memory of all who were present.
Musical interludes during the evening were provided by the Goldwater family and the evening concluded with an address by Mayor Pete Rutledge and with concluding remarks from Rabbi Elchonon Feldman.