HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition held it’s 38th Annual Civic Commemoration of the Holocaust. Dozens gathered at the State Capitol to commemorate the Holocaust and to remember the eleven million lives lost in concentration camps and gas chambers.
“And of those eleven million, six million were Jews, representing two-thirds of the Jews in Europe at the time and almost half of the total Jewish population,” said Rabbi Ariana Rabbi Capptauber of Temple Beth El in Harrisburg.
Capptauber is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivor, Linda Marshak.
“They came to my town in 1941, rounded up the Jews, including my brother who was 18, and my sister who was 16,” said Marshak who was just three-years-old when her family was torn apart. “They brought them into the forest, along with thousands of other youths, where they were all shot and buried in a ditch,” Marshak added.
Marshak ended up escaping with her mother and finding refuge in the United States, ultimately, being able to share firsthand what she says can happen when hate prevails.
“Today, anti-Semitism is on the rise again,” said Marshak. “From the marchers in Charlottesville to graffitied swastikas on synagogues, including right here in Harrisburg,” she added.
Leaders in the Jewish community and faith leaders say the spike in hate crimes and hate-related incidents in recent years is alarming.
“The past several years have been marked with an increase of ethnic, racial and religious hatred,” said Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition Chair, Marc Zucker.
“There has been an increase in hate crimes in Pennsylvania and across the nation in recent years, including an increase in anti-Semitic propaganda and violence,” said Gov. Tom Wolf.
According to data from the Pennsylvania State Police Uniform Crime Reporting System, from 2016 through 2019 Pennsylvania saw an average of 88 hate crimes annually. In 2020, incidents of hate crimes rose by 33% to 111. In 2021, there were 219 reported hate crimes.
Gov. Wolf said today’s ceremony is an important reminder of the real events that took place and the real lives that were affected.
“Moments of remembrance like this are essential for our commonwealth, for our world, for all of us. In remembrance, we mourn the lives cut short and those forever changed,” said Wolf. “The actions of ordinary people created an atrocity. And it’s only through the actions of ordinary people that we can prevent future atrocity,” Wolf added.
Local faith leaders echoed similar remarks to why it is crucial to unite against evil and hatred, especially with the current crisis in Ukraine.
“Now is the time for all people of faith, from all faith traditions, to unite in a battle against good versus evil. It is said that if you ignore history, then you are doomed to repeat it,” said Bishop Ronald William Gainer of the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg. “It is our duty to ensure that what happened then will never be forgotten and never be repeated in future generations,” added Bishop Gainer.
Today’s commemoration is known as Yom Hashoa in Hebrew. It begins this evening at sundown.