By Rachel Chasin
The Holocaust is remembered at B’nai B’rith International throughout the year. But annually on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), B’nai B’rith holds a program across the country. It’s called “Unto Every Person There is a Name.”
Since 1989, B’nai B’rith has been the North American sponsor of the Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority) program that honors and remembers the victims of the Shoah.
A Yad Vashem database provides a list of Holocaust victims, and participants honor them by reading their names aloud and stating where they were born and died.
Every year, the program has a theme decided by an international committee, and this year’s theme was “Restoring Their Identities: The Fate of the Individual during the Holocaust.” B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider represents B’nai B’rith on this committee.
B’nai B’rith regions and lodges coordinate with synagogues and Jewish community centers across the nation to make “Unto Every Person There is a Name” a part of their Holocaust commemorations. The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington held a remembrance event at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Potomac, Md., where survivor Marsha Tishler told of living in a displaced persons camp. The JCRC of Greater Washington asked those attending to send in additional names they wanted read aloud.
“You look at these lists of names and you see that a whole family has been wiped out. If it weren’t for this program these names wouldn’t be mentioned; there is no family left to remember them—they’re gone, [and this is a way] to remember the victims,” said Rhonda Love, B’nai B’rith International vice president of programming and director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity.
Names are often read in conjunction with other remembrance programs—with some events lasting overnight.
B’nai B’rith and Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), a Jewish fraternity, collaborate to bring “Unto Every Person There is a Name” to university campuses as part of AEPi’s own Holocaust Remembrance Day program, called “We Walk to Remember.”
That program began in 2006 at New York University, and, since then, more than 100 campuses across North America, Israel and Europe have participated in this event. AEPi brothers and other volunteers walk silently across their campuses wearing a “Never Forget” sticker provided by B’nai B’rith.
B’nai B’rith also supplies pamphlets to AEPi to distribute, on the importance of Yom Hashoah and how this year’s theme relates to the Holocaust.
“Watching young people take on the responsibility is really very important, because it is getting harder for the survivors. The next generations need to bear witness, to make sure to never forget,” Love said. “They are stepping up.”
The number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling. These programs ensure society remembers the Shoah and the horrors its victims faced.