Since the 1950s, a Holocaust Remembrance Day known as Yom HaShoah has been observed after Passover.
Yom HaShoah officially falls on May 1 this year, but the Alpert Jewish Community Center (AJCC) is holding a community-wide event on Sunday, May 5, to honor the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.
Rabbis and cantors from local synagogues will gather and the choir from Westminster’s Temple Beth David will perform. In remembrance of those lost in the Holocaust, the service will include a candle lighting ceremony and the placement of small stones at an outdoor memorial fountain.
This year’s featured speaker will be Holocaust survivor and Long Beach resident Yetta Kane. Born in 1932 in Myadel, Poland, Kane said she will never be able to forget the horrible things she witnessed as a child.
“My family lived a normal life and got along well with the neighbors in our town until the Germans occupied it,” Kane said. “One day when I was 8 years old, I was playing outside with a neighbor girl. Right before my eyes, a German soldier shot a Jewish man who was walking home from temple.”
Kane said the soldiers forced the Jewish families in her town to leave their homes. Her uncle got word that they were about to be shipped out and helped coordinate an escape. Kane and her family spent two and half years living on the run in the woods, sometimes traveling 15 to 20 miles a day. Their flight eventually took them to a farm in Siberia, where they shared a room with a horse and suffered from frozen feet.
“My mom cared for the pigs and the cows,” Kane said. "My dad chopped wood and took care of the horses. We always went to school because my parents believed that education was essential to survival. We didn’t have any warm clothes and we had to eat food from the pigs in order to survive, but we never missed a day of classes.”
In 1949, her family moved to the United States. In 1950, she met the man who would become her husband, a Rabbi and fellow refugee named David Kane. The two married and raised three children in Long Beach. Together, they wrote a book called "How to Survive Anything" and began talking to audiences about their experiences.
“Some say the Holocaust never happened,” Kane said. “I have to let the younger generation know that it did. It is not easy, but as long as I’m alive, I must talk about it. It is important to speak and teach children the importance of tolerance and love, not prejudice.”
The AJCC also is teaching love through the Butterfly Project, an art-making educational endeavor that started in San Diego in 2006. The project’s goal is to create beautiful butterflies, one for each of the 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust.
Suzanne Tobias, a Cal State Long Beach student working toward a degree in Modern Jewish Studies, has been coordinating the efforts of local children and adults. She said that she encourages each artist to “make the butterfly as an act of love for someone who has experienced hate.” The colorful pieces will fly above the entry of the AJCC, welcoming visitors to the event.
Activities begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at the Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St. The program is free and open to the public.