Henry Jelen

The Chicago area’s annual collective Holocaust memorial observance will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at Congregation Beth Hillel B’nai Emunah, 3220 Big Tree Lane in Wilmette.

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. Formerly held in Skokie, the service this year has relocated to accommodate greater attendance anticipated because the program will be conducted jointly with the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. The Jewish United Fund co-sponsors the event.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Since April 2009, the museum has served more than one million visitors through exhibitions, education and public programming.

Leadership of both the Museum and Sheerit Hapleitah decided to collaborate on this year’s Holocaust memorial observance to underscore the importance of not only remembrance, but also recognition for survivors and educational efforts aimed at stemming the rising tide of anti-Semitism.

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.

“We are living during a time where anti-Semitism is on rise in the whole world… 74 years after the liberation of the concentration camps the world appears to have forgotten the history of what hatred can do.  Sheerit Hapleitah is an organization founded by Survivors who have horrendous histories or stories of survival to tell,” said Henry Jelen, president of Sheerit Hapleitah. He continued “The mantra that we have to work towards is “NEVER AGAIN.” 

This year, the memorial service – which has been held annually since the camps were liberated in 1945 – will feature remarks from Fritzie Fritzshall, President of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and a performance by violinist David Lisker.

Other scheduled speakers include Israel’s Consul General to the Midwest, Aviv Ezra; Consul General of Germany, Herbert Quelle; Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen; and Henry Jelen. 

As part of the ceremony, Dr Eric Silberman, grandchild of four survivors, will share what the legacy of his grandparents means to him and other descendants of Holocaust survivors, as well as reinforce the commitment to carry on their stories and lessons to future generations.


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