Thousands Virtually Gather to Honor Survivors

It begins in May. Federation’s Yom HaShoah committee, chaired by Barbara Ostroff, meets to begin planning next year’s commemoration. The committee, comprised of Holocaust Survivors, children and grandchildren of Survivors, representatives from partner organizations, and community members, contemplate putting together a community gathering that spans the continuum of Never Forget, Never Again. For Holocaust Survivors, this is a solemn memorial to say Kaddish for family members and loved ones who perished. For the community, it is an opportunity to learn from the past and apply those lessons to the future. However, the real importance of the day is that we all come together.

You can imagine the disappointment and sadness when the committee made the difficult decision to cancel the commemoration due to the global pandemic. The risk of even holding a small gathering, just for Survivors, was far too great. We discussed postponing until the summer or even broadcasting our recorded ceremony from last year. None of the ideas embodied the spirit of authentic togetherness and peoplehood that we typically experience. It seemed as though Yom HaShoah was going to be relegated to a simple email asking everyone to Remember, Honor, and Teach.

And then the phone calls started. Federation staff and committee members asking, “What if we” and, “Could we try.” Then, conversations with Vera Lorell, President of the New Life Club, and Sam Landua, San Diego Generations of the Shoah, led to ideas of new and adaptive ways to engage virtually. Recognizing the shelter-in-place mandate as an opportunity led to the dissolution of old barriers and challenges typically experienced. We decided to spread programs across three-days to allow for flexibility during the weekend and alignment with the global commemoration day. We were able to “bring in” a speaker from Germany as well as other presenters and participants from around the world. See the full line-up below:

A Conversation with Ben Midler
Author, The Life of a Child Survivor from Bialystok, Poland

Developing Global Leaders in Action
Steven Schindler, Nicole Nicon, and Antonia Nicon

Yom Hashoah Remembrance Ceremony
Rabbi Ralph Dalin and Rabbi Scott Meltzer
Sharing our Family's Stories”
The Butterfly Project

Talia's Tolerance Tour
High School Student, Talia Schauder

Historically the community’s Yom HaShoah commemoration brings together 600+ people in the Garfield Theater in the JCC. This year, we had over 4,000 participants and the programs continue to reach new people every day. If you didn’t have an opportunity to participate, you can view any of the programs online at

A special thank you to our incredible committee, Barbara Ostroff (Chair), Lesley Cole, Edden Dembsky, Joe Fox, Margarita Ferdman, Tova Galgut, Eli Landau, Sam Landau, Catherine Lee, Vera Lorell, Rabbi Scott Meltzer, Ben Midler, Jack Morgenstern, Marisa Rosenberg, Rose Schindler, Steve Schindler, Cantor William Tiep, and Allison Weisman. Your willingness to adapt, bend, and creatively flex when needed was inspiring. 

Remembering the Holocaust is not something that we must do each and every day.  Our San Diego Holocaust Survivor Coalition works to ensure that all Survivors live their remaining days with the dignity and respect they deserve. It is the responsibility of our collective community to make good on that promise. Join Federation, Jewish Family Service, Seacrest Village, and over 30 other Jewish organizations and be a part of this coalition. Visit to learn more.



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