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Holy Yom Kippur begins locally with Holocaust remembrance

Mike Desmond / WBFO News

On a beautiful Sunday, a small crowd remembered the darker days of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. Hours before Yom Kippur began at sunset, a small and socially distanced crowd assembled at Old B'rith Shalom Cemetery in Cheektowaga for a community service sponsored by the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo.

Surrounded by the gravestones of the old cemetery, members of the Jewish community read the names of those murdered in the Holocaust death camps who have family ties in this area and they remembered all those who died. They recited the ancient Hebrew prayer for the dead, the Kaddish. After the main part of the service, some of those present put the symbolic stone on top of the Holocaust Memorial to show the dead will not be forgotten.

Temple Beth Tzedek Rabbi Adam Rosenbaum said, events like this are important because there are those who deny the Holocaust and it is important for younger people to keep that memory alive.

"It's honestly a threat to any minority when the facts of the Holocaust are twisted or refuted in an inappropriate way," Rosenbaum said. "The Holocaust itself was documented as well as anything is world history. The Nazis kept incredible records."

Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement and is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Rosenbaum said Yom Kippur is important as shown in prayer and fasting.

"It's a time to dedicate ourselves to become better people over the course of the next year. That's what we are dedicating ourselves to do. We're dedicating ourselves to God, to speak honestly with God," he said. "I would say that remembering the Holocaust is certainly not the only responsibility of a Jew. We have many responsibilities, many."               

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
It was a socially distance ceremony Sunday.

This year's Yon Kippur comes during tangled times. Rosenbaum said President Abraham Lincoln offered an example of bringing opposing sides together.

"Lincoln is the exemplar of what it means to take a community torn apart and ensure that they can be brought together and to lead in the spirit of togetherness," Rosenbaum said. "Lincoln is the role model that we all need to follow. Not that everybody's going to match him, but certainly this is what we should shoot for."

Lincoln began to bring the country together as the Civil War wound down, only for others to see his attempts wound down by his assassination and the unresolved temper of Reconstruction.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.