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The Villages
Friday, June 9, 2023

Temple to host Holocaust remembrance event

Temple Shalom will host a Central Florida Holocaust remembrance event 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in The Villages.

The program is titled, “Who Would You Be? Rescuer, Persecutor or Bystander?” It focuses on how each individual can choose how to react to hate and bullying. Why do some people stand up and others look away? We saw this during World War II and we see it now.

Antisemitism is on the rise in the United States, with significant increases in 2021 and 2022 according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Attacks against Jewish institutions including synagogues and community centers were up 61 percent, and incidents at K-12 schools more than doubled. Problems on college campuses rose 21 percent, assaults were up 167 percent, and harassment increased 43 percent.

Bullying against Asian people, the LGBTQ Community and people of color are also increasing.

Local Holocaust survivors and the second generation, who are the children of Holocaust survivors from all over Europe, will be honored at the event, along with World War II soldiers, rescuers and liberators. The message from this group is to Remember and Never Forget! We must make sure that the story is told and the history is remembered in light of lack of formal Holocaust education in many places and the increasing number of Holocaust deniers.

The scheduled guest speakers are authorities on antisemitism and bullying in today’s environment. They will explain how we can learn from the past and reduce hate and negativity going forward.

  • Lonny Wilk is the Deputy Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League in Florida. He is responsible for overseeing regional communications and operations. He is part of the staff who respond to and assist victims of discrimination and hate crimes. Previously he worked at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and Yad Vashem in Israel.
  • Patrick Riccards is the CEO of Life After Hate. It is the nation’s first U.S. nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals disengage from far-right hate groups and hateful online spaces. The organization was founded by a group of ex-White Supremacists who now work to help diffuse violence by sharing their stories and teaching/counseling others.

The TriCounty Holocaust Remembrance Group sponsors an annual Holocaust Educational Writing Contest.  Awards will be presented to students from the Sumter County Junior High Schools and Villages Charter School for the best submissions for literature after their Holocaust Reading Assignments.

One of the 2023 learning resource prompts was the famous quote by the German Lutheran theologian Martin Niemoller which is very applicable to our 2023 theme.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

On February 25, 2023, there was an organized “Day of Hate” scheduled by extremist groups across the country. The purpose was to inspire violence against the Jewish community. The good news is that some communities created “Days of Unity,” with local churches and synagogues to combat this. But the question is, why does this continue and what can we do to help?

The Temple Shalom Choir and Friends plus the God’s Echo Choir from the Community United Methodist Church of Fruitland Park will perform several selections regarding peace, tolerance, and friendship.

The entire community is invited to this free event. Doors will open at 3:15 p.m.

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