The Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Fashion Island held a public menorah lighting in honor of the Festival of Lights at a ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 2 in Fashion Island’s Atrium Garden Court, the largest community celebration in Orange County.
The celebration began with holiday musical performances by the Tarbut v’Torah day school choir and the musical group Orange Jews. The community honored eight Holocaust survivors during the lighting.
On Nov. 9 to Nov. 10, 1938, “Kristallnacht”, also called “Night of Broken Glass,” Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. After this event, conditions for German Jews grew increasingly worse; Kristallnacht served as a tipping point, a sign that Nazi anti-Semitism was not a temporary predicament and would only intensify.
The eight survivors were each introduced to the crowd by Steven Silverstein, who recounted their stories of survival. These accounts included spending time in labor camps, living in ghettos set up by the Nazis, being hidden by good and moral gentiles who themselves might have been killed for doing so, living in holes and scrounging for food for years, and escape under harrowing circumstances, all while not knowing if they would survive the next day. Some were but small children at the time.
Each survivor was accompanied onto the stage by a child to light a candle, a literal and figurative passing of the torch, the continuity of their inspiring flames, from one generation to the next. They all participated in lighting the menorah, and then each received a memento of the occasion, a personalized Star of David menorah.
“These heroic and determined individuals not only survived the darkness, they went on to thrive and illuminate the world around them. They came to the United States to build successful families, businesses, careers and legacies, showing by example that the best response to hate is love, the best response to the desecration of the human and divine spirit is a greater devotion to faith and a higher code of behavior, and the best response to evil is to increase acts of goodness and kindness” said Rabbi Reuven Mintz of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life. “The lessons of the events of Kristallnacht must continue to be learned and taken to heart by all people of good conscience.”