Written by McKenna Corson, Staff Reporter Cleveland Jewish News
Charlie Gruenspan leads a prayer during the 60th anniversary of the Kol Israel Holocaust Memorial dedication Sept. 12 at Zion Memorial Park in Bedford Heights. In the foreground, Jewish War Veteran Ron Meyers holds a flag. Despite having happened almost 80 years ago, the Holocaust’s fire of remembrance and education continues to burn in Cleveland.
Dozens of Clevelanders remembered the mass genocide through speakers, candle lightings and memorial prayers during the annual Kol Israel fall memorial at Zion Memorial Park in Bedford Heights Sept. 12.
The event, hosted by the Kol Israel Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Kol Israel Holocaust Memorial dedication. The monument was unveiled in 1961 by Kol Israel’s founders, a group of local Holocaust survivors, as both a memorial to the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust and also as a physical location to commemorate Holocaust victims with unknown resting places, said Mark S. Frank, memorial co-chair, past president of Kol Israel Foundation and son of Kol Israel founders. This year, the event also remembered the founding members of Kol Israel and other local Holocaust survivors who have passed in recent years.
“Today, we’ll light six candles; typically, we do so to commemorate the loss of 6 million Jewish lives snuffed out by the Nazis,” Frank said during the event. “But today, we also remember the memory of our parents and grandparents ... who, six decades ago, helped this monument establish a permanent memorial to all of the victims.”
Frank guided the candle lighting ceremony, where the families of Holocaust survivors flipped switches in six lamp posts as a way of remembering the 6 million lives lost to the Holocaust. Frank read out short biographies for each highlighted survivor, who included Lola and Morry Malcmacher, both deceased; Ann (Hanka) and Mike Frum, both deceased; Sylvia and Garry Lavon; Pearl and the late Bernard Yaeger; and Rose and Joseph Ickowicz, both deceased. A candle was “lit” by the children of Jay Bramson and grandchildren of Albert Bramson, the past owners of Zion Memorial Park.
A seventh candle in memory of the children who perished in the Holocaust was lit by Jordan O. Walman, Frank’s daughter and granddaughter of lifetime Kol Israel Foundation members, Esther and Herman Frank.
The event featured words from Robert Zelwin, the new president of Kol Israel, and Barry Reis, the CFO of the Federation.
Reis, a child of Holocaust survivors, described the importance of meeting as a community to remember the Holocaust and its victims. He spoke about how the founders of Kol Israel and other local Holocaust survivors overcame such a horror to create a better Jewish world. “As we stand here today in the presence of this monument, we see their vision fulfilled,” Reis said. “We see it in our thriving Jewish day schools, our community centers and our places of worship. But most of all, we see it in the faces of the people gathered here today, in the faces of the grandparents, parents and children, the generations who have lived on.” Rabbi Noah Leavitt of Oheb Zedek Cedar Sinai Synagogue in Lyndhurst provided the event’s address.
Leavitt stressed even though a majority of those present that Sunday afternoon were not Holocaust survivors, the need to continue the memories and education of the Holocaust was vital.
“Memory is important, but Judaism and the trials of our history call for more than just to remember,” Leavitt said. “... Across the tides of Jewish history, either we who were not there are called on not just to remember as onlookers from afar, but instead as participants.” He shared that when he moved to Cleveland four years ago, he unexpectedly found a community forged by Holocaust survivors to both remember and educate others.
“(The survivors) emerged from the darkest depths to build Kol Israel, to build synagogues and schools,” Leavitt said. “To the survivors who are with us today, it is truly overwhelming to think of all you had to overcome. Without your strength and resilience, and that of the veterans who we honor today as well, we would not be standing here.”
Many of the speakers brought up Kol Israel Foundation’s mission to have the Holocaust monument recognized as a National Historic Landmark, containing a listing on the National Register of Historic Places and a designation as a National Monument or National Memorial. To do so, Kol Israel is seeking an act of Congress to recognize the monument or an executive order from President Joe Biden to establish its prominence.
“We believe the monument to be the first or one of the first monuments to the victims of the Holocaust, and thereby an important part of our nation’s history,” Frank said. “There are currently no national monuments to the Holocaust, and only three that relate in any way to Judaism.”
The event concluded with Tehillim and Kol Mole Rachamim prayers led by Cantor Aaron Shifman of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, and Kaddish led by Leavitt.
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Pictures of Shul Boys who attended the Memorial Ceremony plus related pictures