MAITLAND — Seven survivors of the Nazi Holocaust lit candles Sunday in remembrance of the 6 million Jews who lost their lives and those who stepped up to rescue and liberate others.
The event, held in the gymnasium of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando in Maitland, was part of an international Holocaust Day of Remembrance.
"In Jewish tradition, on the anniversary of a loved one's death, people pray and light candles," said Pam Kancher, executive director of the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida in Maitland. "Survivors of the Holocaust don't know the day their loved ones perish. For them, we have this memorial service."
The event, Yom HaShoah, was started in Israel in 1953 and was first commemorated in the United States in 1979.
Kancher said the Holocaust Center has focused this year on an anti-bullying initiative in the schools that teaches kids not to be silent bystanders to bullying as many people were to the persecution of the Jews. Likewise, other speakers emphasized it was indifference as much as hatred that allowed the Holocaust to happen.
Author Jane Yolen gave the keynote address to the crowd of about 300 people, recounting her writing of "The Devil's Arithmetic," a young-adult novel about a Jewish girl who gets transported back to the time of the German Nazi concentration camps.
Yolen said it was a book she was reluctant to write, but a story she was compelled to tell.
"I wanted them [young people] to know things a history book might not tell them in a way that will make them remember," she said
Orlando Catholic Bishop John Noonan led the audience in a responsive reading that ended with the prayer, "May their memory endure until the end of time."
The crowd responded: "May they rest in peace eternally."
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