Holocaust Remembrance ceremony shares message of peace and ‘never again’

Twelve hundred people attended Thursday’s Tri-County Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance program held at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church.

Temple Shalom Rabbi Zev Sonnenstein, right, was so inspired by a piece of artwork submitted by Villages Charter School student Sophia Hurtt that he performed an a cappella version of ‘The Last Butterfly.’

The focus of this year’s program was “70 Years Since the Nuremberg Trials: Has the World Learned?” and it was sponsored by the Temple Shalom Holocaust Remembrance Committee.

Holocaust survivor Heinz Jaffe, 96, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

In addition to the Nuremberg Trials, another enduring theme of the program was “Never Again.”

Temple Shalom Rabbi Zev Sonnenstein, in recounting the time in college when he – one of only three Jewish students at the school – came home one day to find a swastika painted on the door to his dorm room, something the participating students thought was just a joke, reminded everyone there still is work to be done.

A play written by event co-chair Phyllis Kalter and directed by Steve Rubin was the centerpiece of the program. Using actual transcripts from the first Nuremberg Trial, the play exposed the treatment and conditions of the concentration and labor camp prisoners.

Villages Charter School student Sophia Hurtt was the first-place winner in the art competition.

The women used as human guinea pigs told their stories. In a very poignant moment in the play, one of the characters portraying a woman crippled to the point of almost not being able to walk said she knew she had to be thankful because all the other women in her ward died from the medical experiments.

The winners of the student art and writing competitions were announced. Students from area schools were invited to participate using the Holocaust as a theme for their work. One of the winners, Sophia Hurtt, produced a watercolor with a black background depicting a large butterfly with four scenes from the concentration camps painted within the interior of the butterfly.

Hurtt, an eighth grader at The Villages Charter School, was inspired by her school field trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Sonnenstein, inspired by her painting, did an a cappella version of “The Last Butterfly.”

The program closed with The Villages Pops Chorus’ rendition of “Let There be Peace on Earth,” drawing the appreciative audience to its feet.

Steve Rubin, Susan Feinberg and Bill Davis.

“This is truly is a community event,” said Susan Feinberg, co-chair of the event. “When I called Bill Davis, director of The Villages Pops, and asked them to be part of this year’s program, he said he would if he had at least 40 interested members. When he called me back, he had 90 and ultimately over 100 singers participated in the program.

“The generosity of St. Timothy’s and Father Ed Waters is an example of the community involvement in putting this program together,” Feinberg added.