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Holocaust memorial ceremony comes a day after shooting in California synagogue

Holocaust survivor’s story of love, loss and hope for the next generation

David Schaecter lost his entire family during the Holocaust. Schaecter is a docent to teenagers participating in the 2018 March of the Living in Poland and Israel and he says there is no greater purpose in his life.
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David Schaecter lost his entire family during the Holocaust. Schaecter is a docent to teenagers participating in the 2018 March of the Living in Poland and Israel and he says there is no greater purpose in his life.

A day after one person was killed and three others were injured in a shooting at a California synagogue, hundreds of people gathered at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach on Sunday evening to denounce hate and remember the victims.

The ceremony had been planned to mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins sundown Wednesday. The annual event brings together the community to remember the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust through stories, songs and prayers.

“The lessons of the Holocaust are only real if we learn from them and we do whatever is necessary to make sure history does not repeat itself,” said Jacob Solomon, the president of Greater Miami Jewish Federation, which along with the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach holds the annual the event.

The shooting — the second at a synagogue in the last six months — is a harsh reminder that there is still a lot of hate, said 90-year-old Holocaust survivor David Mermelstein, who spoke at the event.

“It brings back memories, bad ones,” he said. “That this could happen in the United States is horrible.”

On Saturday, the last day of Passover, a gunman stormed into the Chabad of Poway, a Southern California synagogue, and began shooting. A woman was killed, and three — including the rabbi — were wounded. Police later arrested 19-year John T. Earnest.

Earnst may be charged with a hate crime, according to The Associated Press.

The shooting comes only six months after another mass shooting at a synagogue.

On Oct. 27, police say Robert Gregory Bowers, 46, walked into the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh during a bris — ceremony to mark the birth of a boy — and killed 11 people. That attack is considered to be the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in modern American history. Following the Pittsburgh shooting, the South Community rallied together and held several services for the victims.

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Danny Pelz, a member of the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach Committe and grandson of a Holocuast survior, speaks during the annual Holocaust remembrance Day held Sunday, April 28, 2019, at the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach. Hundred of Miami residents of all ages gathered to commemorate six million Holocaust victims. Alexia Fodere For the Miami Herald

“Six months to the day after the murder of eleven Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, yesterday’s attack reminds us that hate and extremism targeting Jewish people is all too common,” the Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation said in a statement. “This latest attack also falls within days of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when our communities remember and pray for the victims of the Holocaust who perished, and convey the Jewish people’s determination not to forget their suffering and the hate that brought it about. Of course, we survivors don’t need to be reminded because we lived through it and are reminded every minute of the day.”

Jessica Katz, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and the co-chair of this year’s Yom Hashoa event and candlelight vigil, said the news of the shooting makes the program “that much more important and relevant.”

“We cannot be silent,” she said. “I think the takeaway message is we need to be vigilant, we need to be aware and we can’t be quiet.”

Solomon agreed and had a message to the victims of the California shooting.

“I can’t say, ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you,’; it seems empty,” he said. “I think we have to pledge activism. We are going to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in fighting terror, in fighting anti-Semitism and in fighting hatred of all stripes.”

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