EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP —The names of more than 200 deceased Holocaust survivors were read aloud in the pouring rain and blustery wind Sunday morning as their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews gathered for the annual Mitzvah Zecher Avot, or “the good deed of remembering family,” at Rodef Sholom Cemetery.
The service, which included clergy from throughout the area, was hosted by the Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center at Stockton University.
Despite the stormy weather, about 50 people stood at an archway that read “Holocaust Survivors” to pay their respects and remember those who survived the Nazi-led mass genocide of millions of Jews.
Mona Trocki-Ozlek, of Margate, said she grew up in Laureldale with her parents, survivors Jack and Mira Trocki, in a close-knit community.
She said she often spent time with her aunt, Selda Karas, and fondly recalled her aunt Riva Narkunski’s apple cake.
“I am a child of Holocaust survivors, so a memorial to my family and the community is so important to me,” Trocki-Ozlek said. “Many of the community were survivors like my parents. I was growing up with this environment. I would like to continue having remembrance.”
To that end, she said she recently decided to start a Yiddish club. Those interested in joining may call the Holocaust Center at Stockton at 609-652-4699.
Trocki-Ozlek said the memorial service was important to continue the memory of those who were able to pick up their lives and start anew.
“There’s a bond with second generation because all of us grew up knowing there were so many stories that we did not hear because they didn’t want to upset us. More and more have left their legacies through (director Steven) Spielberg’s video. And we’re so lucky to have Stockton and have a collection of memoirs on tape because we don’t want to lose what our families meant to us and what they went through.”
As the names were read aloud Sunday morning, the readers shared anecdotes.
“Cyla was an inspiration to everyone. She was always interested in the other person,” one man said.
Another person recalled Blanche Horowitz, “who died much too young.”
Meir Judelewitz “always had a caramel candy in his pocket,” said another.
And Meta Larsen “had the most indomitable spirit. The most positive person I’ve ever met.”
Gail Rosenthal, director of the Stockton Holocaust Center, said the service takes place every year on the Sunday before Yom Kippur.
“Today, we’re one community,” she said.
Rabbi Aaron Krauss thanked God for keeping Hurricane Matthew away from South Jersey.
“The rain is a test, and you all passed,” Krauss said.
Rosenthal said that the rain could not cancel such an important event.
“The fact is that there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors that are with us. Several people said to me, ‘Do you remember last year, this person was here and that person was here. They’re no longer with us.’ They’re children are here and were remembering their names,” Rosenthal said.
She said, “L’dor va’dor,” which means “from generation to generation.”
“And hopefully this ceremony will continue for years to come,” Rosenthal said.