EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Survivors of the Holocaust are never forgotten.
Dozens of friends and family members of Holocaust survivors gathered in prayer Sunday morning for a Mitzvah Zecher Avot cemetery service, which means “the good deed of remembering family.”
Hosted by The Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center at Stockton University, more than 60 people stood together in the Holocaust Survivor Section of the Rodef Sholom Cemetery to remember deceased survivors and families who came to South Jersey.
Ahead of the service, note cards with survivors names were passed around so attendees could recite them. More than 250 names of deceased survivors were read aloud during the ceremony: mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends.
Some in attendance told stories about the survivors after names were read, and some chimed in with how they knew the person, what they remembered about them and what they might have been known for: “my mother’s best friend,” “an incredible cook,” “one of the strongest men I’ve ever met,” or “always had candies in his pocket.”
One man in the prayer circle simply said after two names were read, “They were both very, very nice people.”
Mona Trocki-Ozlek, of Margate, said at the ceremony she was remembering family members, friends, her sister and her parents Jack and Mira Trocki.
“I miss my mother very much. I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without her,” she said at the service. “She was beautiful and very wise.”
Leo Schoffer, the son of Sara and Sam Schoffer, said when they started holding the annual ceremony, survivors would lead it and read a list of friends and family members they had lost.
“Now, it’s carrying on with their children and grandchildren and people in the community who are not survivors, but are very respectful of survivors,” he said.
The service has been taking place annually for about 30 years during the High Holidays, inviting rabbis, clergy and family members to gather together.
“There were (survivors) that helped to start it,” said Gail Rosenthal, director of the center. “As the years passed, there were fewer and fewer. The survivors came to us.”
Rabbi Shmuel Rapoport said ceremonies like this are important to remember the people who helped to shape today’s neighborhoods.
“Who knows what the community would look like without the input and participation of Holocaust survivors?” he said.