Holocaust remembrances in the region

The son of a highly-decorated Nazi commander will be the keynote speaker for the New Orleans community-wide Holocaust commemoration.

Bernd Wollschlaeger, author of “Against All Odds, Change is Possible” will headline the event. At age 14 he asked his parents why the 1972 murder of Israeli Olympic athletes was referred to by reporters as Jews being killed “again” in Germany. After his father, who was a tank commander for the Nazis, insisted there was no Holocaust, Wollschlaeger sought out the local Jewish community, met survivors and attended a peace conference for Jewish and Arab youth — and struggled with his father’s role in the Holocaust.

Estranged from his parents, Wollschlaeger eventually converted to Judaism, moved to Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces as a medical officer, then later moved to Florida where he is a physician.

In December, he spoke in New Orleans at an Israel Bonds event.

The May 1 program at the Uptown Jewish Community Center will be at 6:30 p.m. The event remembers and honors local survivors while educating the public about the Holocaust and teaching the importance of tolerance. The evening is free and open to the public.

Two musical selections will highlight the evening. Daniel Lelchuk, Assistant Principle cellist for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, will perform “Kaddish” by Maurice Ravel. A selection from “Brundibár,” a children’s opera being produced by the New Orleans Opera Association, will be presented by members of the cast. Written by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása, “Brundibár” was performed 55 times during World War II at the Czech concentration camp in Theresienstadt.

There will be three performances of “Brundibar” at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on May 14 and 15.

During the commemoration, the 11th Annual Educator of the Year award will be presented to Cindy Wooldridge, an English teacher at Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies in Metairie. This award recognizes local teachers who do an outstanding job integrating Holocaust education into their curriculum.

Additionally, high school delegates selected for the Anti-Defamation League Donald R. Mintz Youth Leadership Mission to Washington will be recognized.

The official state commemoration in Alabama will be on May 3 at 11 a.m. at the Capitol in Montgomery. Rabbi Steve Jacobs, the son of a Holocaust survivor, will be the keynote speaker. He is the Aaron Aronov Chair of Judaic Studies at the University of Alabama and author of several books on the Holocaust. The event is coordinated by the Alabama Holocaust Commission.

The Birmingham community commemoration will be on May 1 at Temple Emanu-El at 3 p.m. “Stories Remembered and Retold” will be the stories of Holocaust survivors who are no longer around, as told by their local second- and third-generation descendants.

The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center is teaming with the Levite Jewish Community Center, Birmingham Jewish Federation and local synagogues for the commemoration. Rabbis from the three congregations will participate, along with Cantor Jessica Roskin and Cantor Michael Horwitz.

The BHEC is also coordinating “Unto Every Person There Is A Name,” a reading of the names of children who perished in the Holocaust. Schools, churches, synagogues, businesses, and community organizations are participating in the city-wide reading.

On May 22, the BHEC will have an open house to celebrate the reinstallation of its art exhibit, “Darkness Into Life,” which features the stories of 20 Holocaust survivors who settled in Alabama, as told through the art of Mitzi Levin and the photography of Becky Seitel. The exhibit has been on display at Vulcan for the past year.

As part of the display, there was a production of “A Slippery Slope:The Consequences of Hate” at Vulcan on April 21.

As part of the 3:30 p.m. reception on May 22, there will be the dedication of a new art installation in honor of Phyllis Weinstein’s 95th birthday.

The Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham will take part in this year’s National Jewish Theater Foundation Holocaust Theater International Initiative Remembrance Readings.

This pioneering program involving a wide range of cultural and educational organizations uses theatrical content to create live events, held whenever possible at simultaneous times and dates in venues throughout the U.S.

Now in its second year, the program includes theaters, memorial museums, libraries, consulates, colleges and universities and JCCs from 11 states, and the celebrity involvement of Ed Asner. Remembrance Readings recognizes Holocaust Remembrance Day by using theater as a means to honor the victims of the Holocaust, their memories and stories.

The 5:30 p.m. program on May 2 will include Mindy Cohen, Michael Horwitz, Henry Lapidus, Marly Nadler, Marcia Nelson and Alexis Rothenberg. It is open to the community.

The Jewish Federation of Huntsville and North Alabama will present “A Slippery Slope: A Dramatic Reading with Music,” on May 15 at 2 p.m. at Chan Auditorium, the business administration building at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

The musical includes original poetry and scores by Deborah Layman, vice president of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, and Alan Goldspiel, chair of University of Montevallo’s Department of Music. The performance by The Seasoned Performers will include readings from personal testimonies of Holocaust survivors.

The performance is a combination of the traditional Klezmer melodies from Eastern European Jewish culture and African-American spirituals.

The music and readings together are used to parallel the struggles of Alabama’s Holocaust survivors and the Civil Rights Movement.

Also in Huntsville, there will be a Days of Remembrance program on May 3 at 11 a.m., at Bob Jones Auditorium in the Sparkman Center. Esther Levy of Birmingham is the keynote speaker.

The Mobile commemoration will be on May 4 at 7 p.m., at Springhill Avenue Temple.

Montgomery’s community interfaith Holocaust service will be on May 1 at 3:30 p.m., at Temple Beth Or. The annual Auburn University at Montgomery Holocaust education program was held on April 6.

Tuscaloosa’s Temple Emanu-El will have its Yom HaShoah service on May 6 at 6 p.m.

Alexandria held its annual Holocaust commemoration on April 11. Manny Klepper of Lafayette spoke about how his family escaped to Moscow following Kristallnacht. He then made his way to Chicago and served in the U.S. Air Force, and moved to Lafayette in 2006.

Each year, Alexandria’s commemoration begins at the city’s Holocaust memorial and proceeds to Emmanuel Baptist Church.

Gemiluth Chassodim in Alexandria will also have a commemoration at Shabbat services, April 29 at 5:30 p.m.

The Baton Rouge Yom HaShoah memorial program will be on May 1 at Beth Shalom, at 4 p.m. Co-sponsored by Beth Shalom, B’nai Israel and the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, the event will include recognition of the Holocaust essay contest winners.

In Mandeville, Northshore Jewish Congregation will have a Yom HaShoah program on May 18 at 6:30 p.m., with speaker Laura Aysen, a fellow of Tulane University’s Southern Institute of Research and Education.

On May 4, Gates of Prayer in Metairie will have a Faith Dialogue on the Holocaust, discussing the theological effect of the Shoah on Judaism and Christianity. The dialogue will be between Rabbi Robert Loewy and Father Stephen Rowntree, SJ, Parochial Vicar of Holy Name of Jesus and former Loyola University faculty member. The 7 p.m. program will begin with a Holocaust commemoration.

The Northwest Louisiana 33rd annual Holocaust remembrance service will be May 1 at 3 p.m., at St. Mary’s of the Pines. The Very Reverend Father Rothell Price, the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport, will chair the event.

The guest speaker is Joe Rosenbaum, one of the “Tehran Children.” Born in Cologne, Germany, in 1931, he and his mother and sister were expelled in 1938 while his father was visiting the United States. After spending time in Siberian labor camps, they were freed and eventually wound up in Tehran. There, the Jewish Agency negotiated the evacuation of over 900 children to Palestine, where he arrived in 1943.

There is also a literary competition for students in middle school through college.