Wearing a blue and gold yarmulke, Mark Posner paid his respects on Sunday to the 6 million Jewish people killed during the Holocaust.
Posner and his mother, Isabel, sat quietly in the pews of Beth Shalom Synagogue’s sanctuary as stories of the mass killings were recounted.
Mark Posner, a resident of Baton Rouge for about 18 years, said he had distant relatives who were killed in the Holocaust.
Posner, his mother and nearly 100 other people converged on Beth Shalom Synagogue on Sunday for a Yom HaShoah Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge and The Advocate’s Educational Services Department.
“It makes us remember the people who perished at the hands of our fellow man,” Posner said of the ceremony.
Rabbi Tom Gardner of Beth Shalom and Rabbi Jordan Goldson of Congregation B’nai Israel led the congregation in a series of prayers and chants that recalled the Jews’ struggles during the Holocaust.
“Those who live no more echo still within our thoughts and words,” Gardner said.
Members of the crowd lit several candles in honor of the Jews killed during the Holocaust.
“May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing,” Goldson said before the candles were lit.
Before the prayers, Plater Robinson, the education director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University and a Holocaust education specialist, told the crowd about his 1987 travels in Europe where he gathered information for freelance stories about anniversaries of major World War II events.
Robinson talked to the crowd for about a half hour about his adventures, recounting how the people he met told him of the damage the Nazis inflicted.
“The people who can conquer the obstacles that they’re born with, these are the special ones,” Robinson told the crowd.
At the end of the event, Advocate Educational Services manager Steve Fitzgerald announced the federation’s Holocaust essay and art contest winners.
Local elementary, middle and high school students wrote essays and created pieces of art about either a video that served as a Holocaust metaphor or physical memorials in honor of the Holocaust.
The contests are designed to spread education efforts about the Holocaust beyond routine classroom lectures, said Sue Freedman, the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge’s president.
“When you get them into a hands-on thing … it becomes more of a reality to them,” she said.
The essay winners were Gabrielle Myers, Lukeville Upper Elementary; Blanca Lopez, Woodlawn Middle School; and Claire Young, Parkview Baptist School.
The art winners were Yana Tkacheva Kuzmina, the Dunham School, and Sydney Bonfils, Baton Rouge International School.
Young wrote about a memorial in Liverpool for Kindertransport, a rescue mission in Great Britain during World War II that relocated more than 10,000 Jewish children out of Nazi areas and into Britain foster homes.
“Kids influence me the most,” Young said before the ceremony. “It really touched me.”
Young said she is not Jewish; She is Episcopalian, like her grandfather, William Adams.
Adams, of Baton Rouge, who also attended the ceremony, spent two years in Europe as a military policeman 10 years after the war ended when much of the damage was still visible.
Adams also said his father served in the U.S. Army during World War II, spending most of his time in Germany.
“He saw some of the death camps,” Adams said of his father. “He brought back stories of how a few politicians can overtake a society and completely ruin it.”