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13th Annual Kristallnacht Commemoration in Orange, Nov. 17

Greater New Haven’s 13th Annual Commemoration of Kristallnacht will be held Sunday morning, Nov. 17 at Congregation Or Shalom in Orange. The commemoration is sponsored by Or with support from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven. 

Kristallnacht – or “The Night of Broken Glass” – took place on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, and is regarded by historians as the immediate prelude to the Holocaust. In the course of those 48 hours, mobs rampaged throughout Nazi Germany, Austria and German-occupied Czechoslovakia, murdering hundreds of Jews. Tens of thousands were dragged off to concentration camps and thousands of Jewish-owned stores and businesses were vandalized. More than 1,000 synagogues were burned to the ground. Tragically, even the world remained largely silent. 

That widespread inaction in the face of evil is “all the more reason to celebrate the action taken by a few,” says Or Shalom’s Rabbi Alvin Wainhaus. “It’s so important for youth, our future leaders, to know that there were beacons of light that defied the darkness of the Holocaust – brave souls who refused to allow evil to have the final word; unsung heroes who courageously chose to stand up, when the world simply stood by. Especially in light of the senseless acts of hate that continue to dominate the headlines week after week, it’s so important for us to come together, as Jews and as Jewish-Americans, not only to remember the evil of the past, but to celebrate those who are filled with conscience and courage to defy it.” 

Wainhaus is himself the son of  Holocaust survivors saved by Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul general to Lithuania who disobeyed his government’s orders and issued visas that allowed 6,000 Jews to escape from Nazi-occupied territories through Japan. 

Judy Alperin, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, said, “Commemorating Kristallnacht is important, especially as we experience the rise of hatred and the resurgence of virulent antisemitism. We are proud to stand side by side with Congregation Or Shalom, in support of this important commemoration as we loudly proclaim, never again!”

This year’s event will honor Jacob Morewitz, a Virginian attorney who saved 86 Jews during the Holocaust. Frantically fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe, these 86 refugees boarded the SS Quanza in Portugal, on August 9, 1940 hoping to be permitted to disembark in Mexico. When they were refused refuge there, a teenager on board the ship telegrammed his family, saying: “We are trapped on this boat and we must now go back to hell.” Upon learning of their plight, Morewitz helped enable their rescue. At the commemoration, the Morewitz family will receive a U.S. Senate Commendation from Senator Richard Blumenthal on behalf of their late father and grandfather. 

Commemoration speakers will also include Michael Dobbs of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and author of the new book, The Unwanted; author Victoria Redel, daughter of a Quanza survivor and author of Border of Truth. In addition, “Nobody Wants Us,” a new documentary that tells the story of the S.S. Quanza, will be screened. 

The 13th Annual Kristallnacht Commemoration will be held Sunday, Nov. 17, 9 a.m. at Congregation Or Shalom, 205 Grassy Hill Road, Orange. For more information, contact (203) 799-2341 or info@orshalomct.org. The event is free and open to the public.

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