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SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been nearly 70 years since the Holocaust, yet Jewish communities all over the nation preserve its memory by observing the annual "Days of Remembrance."
Thursday at 1 p.m., the United Jewish Federation of Utah will host its own Days of Remembrance event, also known as Yom HaShoah, at the Jewish Community Center, according to Alex Shapiro, executive director for the United Jewish Federation of Utah.
“The concept behind that is to remember the atrocities that happened at that time — not just to the 6 million Jews who perished, but to the millions of others who were slaughtered by the Nazis as well,” Shapiro said.
Because of the dwindling numbers of witnesses during the time of the Holocaust, The United Jewish Federation of Utah tries to gather as many locals as they can who are connected to the Holocaust to help tell the story, Shapiro said.
“It’s important to remember and to continue to retell a story like this so that it doesn’t happen again,” Shapiro said. “It’s important to teach people to value life and to be tolerant, understanding and accepting of everybody so that people can live together and celebrate their own uniqueness and identity and that we can all live together peacefully and respectively.”
During the estimated 60-minute program, Noemi Mattis, Jd, Ph.D., an accomplished psychologist specializing in trauma, will address attendees.
Seventy-five years ago, Mattis was separated from her parents for two years during the Holocaust while she was hiding under a fake identity with nuns and members of various religions, Shapiro said.
Mattis was reunited with her parents in Belgium at 7 years old. Her parents were “central figures in the Jewish Underground,” Shapiro said.
In her presentation titled “Silent Voices,” Mattis will talk about the families and brave people who helped protect the Jews and were never really acknowledged for it, Shapiro said.
It's important to remember and to continue to retell a story like this so that it doesn't happen again.
–Alex Shapiro, executive director for the United Jewish Federation of Utah
After the presentation, Joel Rosenberg and Marie Ashton will perform Max Janowski’s “Avinu Malkenu” on the viola and the piano.
The program will also include prayers and reflective readings by local rabbis, introductions of local Holocaust survivors, witnesses and war veterans and poetry readings from sixth-grade student Carolina Battistone from The McGillis School and Rowland Hall sophomore Stephanie Nolan.
Battistone and Nolan are this year’s Literary Contest winners, a contest sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Utah that invites sixth to 12th grade students to submit poetry surrounding a theme. This year's theme is “Voices of those who liberated and those who were liberated,” Shapiro said.
Alan Matheson, environmental advisor to Governor Herbert will be attending the event, Shapiro said.
Rabbi Jim Simon with the Temple Har Shalom synagogue in Park City said this event is the only local Days of Remembrance event since the Jewish community is small in Utah.
“So this observance is designed not to say ‘oh, everything’s horrible, everybody hates the Jews, the whole world is anti-semitic, but rather to say ‘what is it can we learn by observing this day?’ And that’s really what happens in Jewish communities all over the world,” Simon said.
Shapiro said this event is not only to remember the Holocaust, but to “acknowledge the horrible atrocities that are still going on around the world.”
The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the website.