Residents of Voorhees were invited to join a memorial event at Brandywine Senior Living on Jan. 27, in conjunction with that day’s annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day and its global reminder of a dark chapter in history.
The Nazi government’s systematic genocide of European Jews and other minorities claimed the lives of about six million people – and one third of the Jewish population – between 1933 and 1945. The January date was chosen to mark the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Russian Red Army in 1945.
The Brandywine center’s lobby area served as the backdrop for prayers, poems and readings to honor of those lost, and was chosen for its accessibility. Its activities director hosted the service.
The event was organized by Scott Borsky, a chaplain at Brandywine who shared his motivation and thoughts on the significance of the event. He emphasized the importance of preserving Holocaust stories, especially as the number of living victims dwindles.
Brandywine resident Sheila O’Boyle spoke to event attendees about childhood memories of the Holocaust.
“So when you want to think – ‘I’m Jewish, you’re Catholic, you’re Protestant’ – think, ‘We are all human,'” she advised.
Borsky also believes younger generations need to engage with Holocaust survivors to learn from their experiences and prevent history from repeating itself. Voorhees Middle School student Ryan Johnson Jr. enthusiastically talked about attending the service and spending time with residents who lived during that time in history. He also proudly mentioned receiving an A on a school Holocaust test.
When asked about the inclusion of prayers, poems, and readings in the commemoration, Borsky explained that prayer is a way of seeking guidance from God to prevent the recurrence of past evils. One focus was the concept of Shalom, representing completeness and totality in all aspects of life.
Borsky emphasized that events like the Brandywine memorial can raise awareness of the Holocaust’s importance. He also believes it is the responsibility of younger generations to learn about that dark period, as well as the history of antisemitism, bigotry, and racism.
“The goal (of the event) was to foster unity and a common understanding that we are more similar than different,” Borsky said, adding that anyone – regardless of religion, culture or tradition – was welcome at the service.
As a cantor, Borsky also demonstrated the role of music in bringing people together by playing the piano and leading guests in song, including Jewish hymns. As for the ongoing task of Holocaust education as survivor numbers decrease, he referred to it as “l’dor vador,” a commitment in Judaism to pass on the stories from generation to generation.