The first Chicagoland Holocaust memorial observance for the millions who perished in the Holocaust came decades ago — right on the heels of the Nazi genocide itself.
Since 1945, the year World War II ended, the event has drawn many from all over the Chicago area to its solemn ceremony. Sheérit HaPleitah of Metropolitan Chicago, the sponsor of the observance for many years, is an umbrella organization of the area’s Holocaust survivor groups.
Chicagoland’s 71st annual Holocaust memorial observance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. May 8 at the Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue, 8825 East Prairie Road, Skokie. The ceremony, which is also sponsored by the Jewish United Fund, is always scheduled around Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins this year the night of May 4 and ends the night of May 5.
Nazi concentration camps were liberated 71 years ago, noted Charles Lipshitz, president of Sheérit HaPleitah of Metropolitan Chicago, in his release announcing this year’s ceremony.
“We face a world of hatred and injustice against the Jewish people,” he said. “Europe, especially, claims it also suffered under Nazism in World War II, yet there still are nearly daily attacks there against Jews and Jewish institutions.”
Sheérit HaPleitah of Metropolitan Chicago says the annual event is the largest Holocaust memorial ceremony in the Midwest and one of the largest in the country. Children and grandchildren of local Holocaust survivors are expected to participate, the organization said.
Last year’s ceremony was attended by Gov. Bruce Rauner and many dignitaries throughout the state. In addition to speeches, including one by Rauner, the ceremony was highlighted by the lighting of six candles to remember the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
Survivors, descendants and their families were named as they slowly made their way to the large candelabra at the front, lighting the candles in silence.
Sheérit HaPleitah of Metropolitan Chicago was formed in the mid 1970s when The Zionist organization of Chicago announced that it would no longer sponsor the annual memorial Yom HaShoah commemoration, according to the group.
Lipshitz was also one of the leaders who helped erect a permanent Holocaust memorial monument between Skokie Village Hall and the Skokie Public Library in 1987 in Skokie. The group considers the successful planning of the statue a “galvanizing” success.
Even after the monument was vandalized shortly after it was unveiled, it has stood as a permanent reminder and memorial for those who were lost during the Holocaust, the group says.
“This monument will remain in perpetuity as a reminder of what hate can do to mankind if decent people are not vigilant to forestall such a calamity in the future,” Sheérit HaPleitah of Metropolitan Chicago says on its website.