The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the form, but not the spirit of events commemorating Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, this year.
On April 19, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust continued its tradition of Yom HaShoah programming by presenting its first virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration, entitled “75 Years After Liberation: Turning Memory Into Action.” The Yom HaShoah ceremony included speakers, music and the opportunity to join in remembrance as a community. The event remembered those who perished, honored those who survived, and marked the 75th anniversary of liberation and the end of the Holocaust. Speakers included David Estrin, founder and CEO of Together We Remember; Hillel Newman, Consul General of Israel; Rabbi Jocee Hudson, Temple Israel of Hollywood; Michele Gold, Board Chair, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust; survivor Edith Frankie and others. Acclaimed guitarist Alberto Lombardi performed from Italy. Special messages from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other notables were also featured.
“Although we could not physically bring everyone together on Sunday we knew it was important for the museum and the community to remember as one,” said Michele Gold, board chair, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. “Whether in person or virtually, our goal as always is to both commemorate the past and learn from it so that these atrocities never happen again. Through technology, we not only had the community from Southern California, but we had viewers from across the country and around the world.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a powerful and moving virtual program. Special features included tributes to Holocaust survivors who have volunteered for decades and shared their experiences with visitors at the Museum of Tolerance, poignant remarks by Rabbi Marvin Hier and others, as well as film clips from Moriah Films’ “I Have Never Forgotten You” and “Liberation” narrated by Nicole Kidman, Sir Ben Kingsley and Sir Patrick Stewart.
Additionally, a Holocaust survivor has used state-of-the-art technology to tell and preserve his story for future generations. Conversational video company StoryFile, together with The ZACHOR Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, has launched Ben Lesser’s StoryFile, which uses artificial intelligence technology to engage learners about Lesser’s personal Holocaust history.
Lesser would ordinarily teach about his Holocaust experience in schools, but this year he is sharing his story virtually. StoryFile has developed a new technology platform which makes interactive natural conversations possible.
“We must teach our future generations about humanity, tolerance, respect, teach against bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and bullying with hopes that history will not repeat itself. If my story helps even one person think twice about the way they treat others, then I know that I lived a life that matters,” said Lesser.
The ZACHOR Foundation is dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, providing educational programs, outreach and online resources. The foundation is offering Lesser’s StoryFile to the public and to schools that had expected to meet him in person so that young people can meet him virtually and still ask their questions. Through the interactive experience, Lesser’s story can now reach young people across the world.
Lesser’s StoryFile is available on the StoryFile app, the ZACHOR website, and will soon be able to play on all devices. This free educational and interactive tool will also be sent out to teachers, students, and parents on a global basis.