The Chicago area’s 73rd annual collective Holocaust memorial observance will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue, 8825 East Prairie Road, in Skokie.

The service, sponsored by Sheerit Hapleitah of Metropolitan Chicago, the umbrella organization for local Holocaust survivor groups, traditionally is the largest gathering of Holocaust survivors in the Midwest and one of the largest in the United States. The Jewish United Fund cosponsors the event.

A high point of the service each year is the candle lighting ceremony honoring the six million martyrs, including one and a half million innocent children, who were murdered only because they were Jews. Each candle is lit by survivors or their children and grandchildren, who represent the failure of the Nazis’ ultimate goal.

“73 years after the liberation of the concentration camps, we once again face a world of hatred and injustice against the Jewish people,” said Henry Jelen, president of Sheerit Hapleitah.

“We cannot let the world forget that a modern society, Nazi Germany, was capable of committing such atrocities. Today, many reactionary forces are hard at work to change history and deny that the Holocaust ever happened. We must be vigilant not to allow this to occur.

“We also must not remain silent in the face of Iranian, Arab, ISIS or any other entity’s wish to destroy Israel,” Jelen said. “The circle of violence must stop, and we will continue to lead the effort to eradicate hate, death and destruction. This can best be accomplished by education and social action targeting the increasing intolerance and the hypocritical Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.”

This year, the memorial service – which has been held annually since the camps were liberated in 1945 – will be keynoted by Dr. Rabbi Julian Ungar-Sargon, a major in the Indiana Guard Reserve, author of several medical books, religious lecturer and a second-generation survivor.

Other scheduled speakers include Gov. Bruce Rauner; Israel’s Consul General to the Midwest, Aviv Ezra; Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen; Jewish Community Relations Council Chair Bill Silverstein; and Jelen. Officials of the Jewish War Veterans – Skokie Post 318 and Boy Scout Troops #69 and #243 also will participate.

As part of the ceremony, a grandchild of survivors will pay tribute to the enormous contribution Holocaust survivors have made to the Chicago community in passing their legacy of courage to future generations.

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