By Eden Aroshas
CCC Journalism Program

CHERRY HILL – On April 5, 2011, the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill hosted its annual Holocaust Commemoration Day. The event promoted a film called “Irena Sendler – In the Name of Their Mothers,” a story of a network of young Polish women who risked their lives to save thousands of Jewish children from the hands of the Nazis. About a hundred members of the community came together to experience this night, as well as to hear the prestigious Dr. Paul Winkler speak.

At the start of the ceremony, men and women of all ages were asked to stand for the “Hatikva,” the national anthem of Israel, as well as the pledge of allegiance of the United States. Young and old stood respectfully, arms at their sides, pride in their hearts. One attendee, Ayelet Benbaruch, 39, was especially touched by the initiation of the ceremony. “I am from Israel, and being so far from home is so very hard for me. But coming here and feeling like I am part of something, I don’t feel so alone anymore.”

Benbaruch, born in Bersheva, Israel, has been living in the states for 5 years. “Every single year I find a way to make it here. The Holocaust commemoration at the JCC really makes everyone remember what happened to the Jewish people, so that we never, ever forget.”

After the allegiances were made, the audience was asked to take their seats. The lights slowly dimmed, bringing the room to silence. The projector was turned on and the film began. Throughout the movie, a noticeable tone enveloped the room. Both men and women, young and old, held hands with their loved ones, only letting go to wipe away tears. The audience was very involved, dedicated and moved by the film in its entirety.

A member in the audience, Dana Sheldon, 46, was deeply touched by the film. “Those women stopped at nothing. It really makes you think about what is happening in the world today, what you can do to make a difference.”

Sheldon, a busy mother of four, was hesitant to coming at first. “I had so many things to do tonight. I really didn’t think it would be a big deal if I missed it. But thank God I didn’t! This truly was an experience,” Sheldon admitted, still dabbing with her tissue.

Following the film, Winkler was available for a Q and A. Winkler, the executive director of the NJ Commission on Holocaust Education, was extraordinarily knowledgeable on the subject of this movie and made the audience feel very comfortable. Many questions were asked, followed by long, detailed answers. Winkler was more than happy to supply the audience with explanations. He ended the night with a show of gratitude.

“Thank you all for coming. I am glad to have seen such an incredible show of faces – both new and familiar. I hope you have all been captivated by this film as much as I have been, and I hope we never forgot what happened. Let us mourn our losses, accept our troubles, and celebrate our victories. Thank you.” Stepping off the stage, he was showered with applause.

Dr. Paul Winkler introduces himself to the audience at the end of the film. By Eden Aroshas, CCC Journalism Program

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