On a cloudy Sunday afternoon, April 11, a crowd numbering almost 3,000 gathered under a blue-and-white striped tent to listen to speeches in commemoration of Yom HaShoah, the day of Holocaust commemoration.
Speaker after distinguished speaker paid homage to the Holocaust survivors, their families and others to came for the annual program, and then turned to warn of Iranian threats to the survival of the Israel, the Jewish people, and the memory of the Holocaust itself. It was a day of remembrance and a day of admonition, a day of honoring and a day of scolding.
Israel’s Consul General Jacob Dayan described two kinds of survivors: those who come once a year to remember, and those, like himself, who live with the memory every day. He described with pride that Israel will, in the coming weeks, celebrate its 62nd birthday, completing what he called a cycle of “3,062 years” including “dark clouds, but also optimism.” It is, he said, “the story of a people who will not be stopped by any mountain or any calamity.”
Then he went on address those who would deny the Holocaust, including the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Dayan defended Israel’s holding back in responding to Iran: “Why is Israel not responding?” he asked, then, in rabbinic style, answered his own question with more questions: “Is not every house that we’re building in the Negev a response?” And “Is not every brit milah every bar mitzvah not a response? Every scientific breakthrough not a response?”
The afternoon’s featured speaker, Dan Gillerman, an Israeli businessman who left the private sector to become Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2003 to 2008, raised the specter of Iran as well. “Israel is facing existential dangers,” he said, praising Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan refusal to come to an international nuclear summit President Obama is hosting, starting on Monday. While many U.S. pundits have suggested Netanyahu’s absence as an attempt to avoid further confrontation with the U.S. president, Gillerman paraphrased the Israeli prime minister’s decision as one of a wise warrior, who “will never step into an ambush.” Netanyahu is saying, in Gillerman’s words, “I will not be there to talk about nuclear terrorism in the company of terrorists.”
Though very few children were present at the Pan Pacific Park’s Yom HaShoah commemoration, and just as few young adults, there was much voice given to the need to convey the story of the Holocaust to youth.
Randolph Shoenberg, chairman of the Museum of the Holocaust, whose new building is being built on a site adjacent to the setting for Sunday’s event, asked the crowd to donate much needed funds for the new museum. To complete construction, he said, an addition $2.5 million is needed, plus $1 million annually for operation.
Also on the podium was a full line-up of dignitaries, including Congressman Brad Sherman, former State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, State Assemblymembers Mike Feuer and Mike Davis, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who spoke briefly and stayed to light a commemorative candle, City Comptroller Wendy Gruel, City Councilmembers Bernard Parks, Paul Koretz and Jan Perry, among others.
Philanthropist, Holocaust survivor and businessman Jona Goldrich, chairman of the Holocaust Monument, underwrote the entire event.