On Sunday, April 22, the Radomer Mutual Cultural Center held a memorial service in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Shoah. The event, held at Bnai Zion in Midtown Manhattan, was attended by three generations: those who survived, their children and their grandchildren. Though some of those grandchildren already have children, none of the fourth generation were there on Sunday.
The survivors not only memorialize strangers, they also say Yizkor for their parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, children, cousins, friends, townsmen and acquaintances who were alive at the beginning of 1939 but were lost in the Holocaust and never emerged in May 1945. Fully 90% or more of those who should've been there in 1945 were not.
These photos are not about the art of photography or a particular aesthetic. I take pictures at this event every year because I want to record the vigor of the community, even as its oldest members' vitality ebbs and their numbers decline. I do this for myself, for my family and for everyone who should know that the destruction of a town doesn't mean the end of a community.
Radom was a city in Poland which, before the German invasion in 1939, had approximately 28,000 Jews in its population. The German invaders moved another 5000 from the surrounding area into its ghetto. I do not know how many survived to the end of the war, and liberation. Most didn't go back to Radom or Poland. There wasn't anything to go back to. In their new homes, they found each other and built mutual benefit societies, a sort of new Jewish Radom - what we might, in the 21st Century call virtual communities - that provided places from which they could rebuild their lives, heal their shattered psyches, and continue and start families. In New York City, they formed what eventually became the Radomer Mutual Cultural Center.
So we, their children and grandchildren, honor our elders, and with them light six candles, recite from memoirs and chant the prayers that bring the lost to mind and remind us to never forget and to teach our children what happened to their grandparents so they can learn to prevent horrors such as this being perpetrated on any people anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of Jewish Radom, the page on Radom at the Holocaust Research Project is a good place to start.