The Sentinel, September 22, 2005

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Quote of the Week:

“This is a demonstration that the holocaust is not only a memory, but it's also turned into action.”

                                           –Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikofsky, Monroe

Concert boosts efforts for Holocaust library
Local resource center would help to preserve survivors’ memories

Staff Writer

MONROE: One-thousand orders of Hot Pastrami, please.

That’s what Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky is hoping to hear by Oct. 1, when klezmer supergroup Hot Pastrami takes the stage at a fundraiser for a new Holocaust library and resource center. The facility will be located at the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe.

More than 500 tickets have already been sold, which is about halfway to Zaklikovsky’s goal.

“It’s really going to be an event of recognizing the Holocaust and the survivors, and also celebrating Jewish continuity,” Zaklikovsky said.

The purpose of the center is to bring Jewish life to the hundreds of unaffiliated Jewish families in the area, he said.

“This is a demonstration that the Holocaust is not only a memory, but it’s also turned into action,” Zakli-kovsky said. “And all the traditions and practices that the Nazis wanted to uproot are being taught in an exciting and a nonjudgmental, comfortable, hands-on way today.”

The Holocaust Resource Center had its genesis in March 2004 when an elderly couple, one of whom is a Holocaust survivor, donated their personal library of several hundred Judaic books. Molly and Jack Honig were moving, and wanted to ensure their catalog of Jewish literature, which includes history, genealogy, mysticism, ethnology and Holocaust books, would be put to good use.

Zaklikovsky has found that use.

“Coming to Monroe and seeing the big number of Holocaust survivors here, we really thought it would be a good idea to do something like this to create a place within the Jewish Center where people can share their memories, and where we can be a resource for other people,” Zaklikovsky said.

Zaklikovsky said he enlisted the help of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education and met with its executive director, Paul B. Winkler, to explore the possibilities.

“They came back with a report saying that they thought it was a very good idea for us to do it, and gave us a little proposal on how we should go about it, and that’s basically what we’re working with,” the rabbi said.

Winkler said the commission has helped set up 27 such centers in New Jersey, and welcomed the idea of adding another.

“I’m very much in favor of having as many centers in the state as possible, because the closer you get them to the people, the more they’ll be used,” Winkler said.

The commission will provide material, particularly teaching resources to aid in community education on the subject. Those resources will include books written by New Jersey Holocaust survivors as well as some of the teaching guides used in schools around the state.

He said each center performs a specific function, such as the one in Mercer County whose primary focus is its teacher training workshop.

“Each one finds its own niche and its own way to impact Holocaust education, and that’s what I expect will happen,” Winkler said.

Zaklikovsky would like to videotape the firsthand accounts of area survivors.

The program, and the community’s response, came as no surprise.

“In general, the Jews in Monroe are very warm to anything Jewish, especially Jewish continuity and Holocaust remembrance,” Zaklikovsky said. “We’re hoping that it will be a success.”

Zaklikovsky feels the timing for such accounts is crucial, because the generation of survivors is aging rapidly.

Winkler said the videotapes are an irreplaceable resource, and it is imperative, now more than ever, to give survivors a means by which their stories can become an indelible mark on history.

“Every time has been important, but right now we face that extra burden of firsthand testimony, and whatever we can do to ensure that the survivors’ stories are known is very important,” Winkler said.

There are hundreds of survivors in the area, and Zaklikovsky would like to set up a database with information on local survivors to accompany the recorded testimony.

“This should be a place where future Monroe residents and Middlesex County residents could come and view this information from their neighbors who lived here and survived the Holocaust,” Zaklikovsky said.

The Oct. 1 concert will include Hot Pastrami, featuring Yale Strom and his All Star Band, and comedian Reuven Russell. It will be held at 8 p.m. at the Richard P. Marasco Performing Arts Center at Monroe Township High School, 1629 Perrineville Road. Tickets are $20; children ages 12 and under are $1. Sponsorships are $180. For tickets, contact Doris at (609) 655-0622.

Zaklikovsky said this marks the beginning of what he expects to be a concerted effort from the community to establish the Holocaust Resource Center.

“We’re hoping that people will come forward, not only for the concert but also afterward to really support this effort, either by providing information and artifacts or by financial support or volunteering,” he said. “And we can really create a long-lasting edifice.”