Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin – who is of Soviet descent – said what happened to Soviet Jews is one of the “least understood aspects” of the Holocaust.
By Gareth Narunsky
The Australian Jewish News
April 15, 2021
One-quarter of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust were from the Soviet Union.
Their stories were the focus of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ (JBOD’s) Yom Hashoah commemoration held last week on the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Soviet territory.
Keynote speaker, Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin – who is of Soviet descent – said what happened to Soviet Jews is one of the “least understood aspects” of the Holocaust.
“The crimes committed there were too vast, too swift, too brutal, too complete, they left few survivors to tell the story,” he said.
Courage to Care chairman Eitan Neishlos told how his grandmother Tamara Ziserman was hidden by the Chodosevitch family in Belarus, who paid with their lives for their role in the resistance. Janina, Piotr and their daughter Anotonia Chodosevitch were honoured by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations in 1996.
Memorial candles were lit by survivors Ephim Lesnick, David Binder, Francine Lazarus, George Sternfeld, Maya Lipovetsky and Sofia Parij, while Cremorne Synagogue’s Rabbi Chaim Koncepolski sang the memorial prayers.
JBOD CEO Vic Alhadeff concluded the ceremony by reading a prayer composed by the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.
At a ceremony on Sunday at the Holocaust Martyrs’ Memorial at Rookwood Cemetery, prayers were recited and communal members read out the names of family who were murdered.
That evening, close to 400 people – Jewish and non-Jewish – attended Youth HEAR’s annual commemoration, “Community: Survive to Thrive”.
Youth HEAR members shared six of their family’s stories to represent six stages of the Holocaust and to recognise the six million Jews who were lost.
JewishCare, COA and the Burger Centre also held two joint commemorations.
“COA was honoured and touched to be joined by nearly 100 community members for its Yom Hashoah commemoration,” COA CEO Rachel Tanny said of the event on Wednesday, April 7, which was also attended by dozens of survivors.
Waverley Councillor Leon Goltsman shared stories from his grandmother, while Vaucluse MP Gabrielle Upton said it was a “great pleasure” to partake in the event.
“We must never be complacent and must continue to remember the Shoah and its lessons about humanity,” she said.
Another event was held in JewishCare’s Community Lounge on Thursday, April 8, attended by 40 people.
Meanwhile, around 250 people across 12 events got together to commemorate Yom Hashoah through Zikaron BaSalon – where in intimate groups limited to 30 they heard from a survivor – on April 6 and 7.