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Howard County to commemorate annual Holocaust Remembrance Day virtually again due to COVID pandemic

For the second time in as many years, the Jewish Federation and the Howard County Board of Rabbis will commemorate the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day virtually because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Thursday event on the Zoom videoconferencing platform will feature the theme of “Keeping the Promise of ‘Never Again’: What It Means in 2021” with Steven Luckert from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as the keynote speaker and Rabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde from Oseh Shalom synagogue in Laurel hosting.

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“We want people to leave not just informed, but with a ‘What can I do now?’” said Mark Steinhorn, a member of Howard County’s Yom HaShoah committee. “Hopefully [Luckert’s] presentation will provide some ideas of what we can do moving forward, to [commemorate] what happened in the Holocaust.”

The Holocaust was the genocide of European Jewish men, women and children between 1933 and 1945 during World War II. The Nazi Germany regime systematically murdered 6 million Jewish people across German-occupied Europe, which equaled to around two-thirds of Europe’s total Jewish population at the time. Millions of others were killed by the Nazis as well, including Romani people, the intellectually disabled, dissidents and homosexuals.

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The event also will feature a Holocaust artifacts exhibit from community members; Holocaust survivor video testimonials; a local authors’ book gallery; the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibit, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda”; and student essay winners from Howard County schools.

Along with the ceremonial prayers and songs, the Yom HaShoah event will feature the lighting of six candles to commemorate the 6 million Jewish people who died in the Holocaust.

Steinhorn said last year when the groups hosted the event virtually for the first time in the early days of COVID-19, they had no idea what to expect, but they ended up filling their Zoom capacity. This year they’ve purchased a Zoom license with capacity for 1,000 so they don’t run into the same problem.

Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, is an annual tradition that is commemorated in a variety of ways, according to Rachel Burrows, a member of the county’s Yom HaShoah committee.

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“Different communities have their own events and recognitions and services of the holiday,” Burrows said.

Her involvement in the event stems from a personal connection: Burrows’ father was a Holocaust survivor who spent years coordinating and leading Yom HaShoah commemorations. As the years go on, however, there are fewer living survivors to attend these kinds of events, Burrows said, so second-generation survivors like herself continue to share the stories.

“It’s definitely very different, missing those survivors, but we still have that same desire to inform and teach and educate people that we always had,” said Steinhorn, whose mother was also a Holocaust survivor.

Steinhorn’s mother — who was liberated in 1945 from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the same one Anne Frank died in — used to take him with her to lectures she would give at high schools about surviving the Holocaust.

“My mother used to say we need to keep telling these stories so that they don’t happen again,” Steinhorn said.

That’s what Steinhorn said events like this one help to do.

Burrows is also hopeful the event being virtual helps garner more attendance and subsequent exposure to what happened during the Holocaust.

“Making a strong connection from historical events to what’s currently going on in our society today, that drives better awareness and tolerance and acceptance,” Burrows said.

To register for the free event, go to jewishhowardcounty.org/yomhashoah.

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