Speech at Holocaust Survivors Tribute Luncheon on June 5th at 12 pm, Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue, Toronto
by David Singer, 2011 MOL Participant from Toronto
Good afternoon Rabbis, Family, Friends and Honored Survivors,
My name is David Singer and I feel privileged to be standing here sharing my thoughts and feelings about my family history and my recent journey on the March of the Living. They are so intertwined. Many of us, in this room today are children or grandchildren of Survivors of the Holocaust. My Grandfather Ernest Singer and his brother Alex, together, survived the terrible atrocities that took place during the Holocaust. Being a member of a family whose grandfather had gone through the holocaust, has allowed me to reflect on the challenges I face today, and the role I will play in the future as an individual in my community and as a Jew.
The March of the Living was my second trip to Poland. My first was with my extended family for my cousins Bar Mitzvah trip to Israel and Poland. I was then eleven years old. I remember my papa told us that he was only thirteen when he was put on a cattle car with his family to Aushwitz. On the day they arrived, my papas mother Nelly and his nine year old sister Miriam were immediately sent to the gas chambers and murdered. My grandfather along with his father and brother were sent to various labor camps. His father died of starvation and sickness days before the war ended. As we all stood on the train platform together united as a family I knew that this part of history is part of who I am, the grandson of a survivor and proof of the survival of a nation that was targeted to be exterminated.
The value and impact of going on the March of the Living was truly the culmination of my Jewish educational experience. After the Holocaust, my grandfather moved to Venezuela to start his life again when he was just 18 years old. After the birth of my father Miguel he knew that he wanted to provide his children with a strong Jewish education. He could not realize this dream there, so they picked up once again and moved to Toronto. My father began the tradition of graduating from Associated Hebrew School and moving on to graduate at Chat. All of us in our family have followed suit. I appreciate what it means to have a solid Jewish education knowing that my grandfather’s was stolen from him at such a young age.
Being on the March of the Living, was a very empowering experience. We were the largest contingent ever, over 10,000 students from all over the world. Our purpose there was to learn from the past, we need to understand history in order not to repeat it and knowing that in the future we must continue to tell what happened so that the victims of the holocaust would never be forgotten nor have died in vain.
Israel tied everything together for all of us. Having visited Israel many times with my family, arriving on the tarmac in Tel Aviv felt like we were home.
Seeing the Israeli Soldiers at the airport gave us all a great sense of strength and pride. It also struck me that Israeli kids going into the army are eighteen, only one year older than me and the other kids on the March. What a tremendous responsibility this is.
Over the years we have had many different soldiers stay at our home. From early on, my family have always appreciated the unbelievable sacrifices these young Israeli soldiers make, putting their lives on the line to protect the State of Israel and Jews around the world.
My family values, have had an enormous impact on me. As a young Jewish person in todays– me– centered society, my parents and grandparents have really tried to give me a sense of not just getting but giving back to society.
I will leave everyone here today with one incredible memory from the March of the Living, One day in Poland over 250 of us were standing together in the forest where l000s of Jewish children and adults were murdered. Rabbi Lipner spoke and reflected on the purpose of our being here, 65 years after such massacres occurred.
As we stood side by side with the survivors, Rafi pointed out that the Nazi scheme to destroy Jews across Europe had failed. The Nazis wanted Judiasm to disappear not just from Europe but from the face of the earth. He challenged us to UP OUR GAME, which became the mantra for the rest of the trip.
He urged us to keep the strength of our community traditions alive and vibrant by doing at least one Jewish deed a week. Our generation must be engaged. We were moved and inspired beyond words.
So today I stand before you feeling the need for all of us to UP OUR GAME this is one way that the memory of those that perished will always be remembered and which will allow for a generation with a strong Jewish identity.