Ever since launching in 2016, the local chapter of Shevet Shemesh, the Israeli Scouts youth group, has hosted a Holocaust remembrance ceremony featuring its scouts. In the past, it has been a private affair, but this year the organization has decided to make the event public.
“Shevet Shemesh’s Holocaust remembrance ceremony has always been about honoring and remembering the lives lost in that tragic event and really ensuring that the Holocaust survivors are never forgotten,” said Shevet Shemesh Director Hadar Hamu. “It is our collective duty to make sure that we don’t forget. Opening it up to the community really fulfills that purpose.”
The ceremony will be held on Tuesday, April 16 at 6:30 p.m., at Scottsdale Community College (SCC). For this first public ceremony, the organization has partnered with the college as well as other community entities, including Congregation Beth Tefillah in Scottsdale, the Phoenix Holocaust Association, Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, Temple Chai in Phoenix and the Israeli American Council Arizona. The ceremony will be led by Beth Tefillah Rabbi Pinchas Allouche.
“We are so honored [to have] this Holocaust remembrance ceremony,” said Hamu. “We really try to promote strong Jewish values and leadership and we felt that making the event public would be beneficial to everyone in that sense.”
Hamu said the event will help reach a larger audience of people across the Jewish community, as well as continue the educational work they’ve been doing with the children.
“We bring up any recent anti-Semitic events at our meetings to try and see what we can do on both the adult level and on the kids level,” said Hamu. “We always want to make sure that we’re talking about these events with the scouts, because there are horrible tragedies that are still happening today, unfortunately. We want to make sure that they understand what is going on so they know what that hatred is. We want them to know how they can combat that hatred through education and communal gatherings like this one.”
The ceremony will feature the 90 Shevet Shemesh scouts singing Holocaust remembrance songs and reading from selected works of poetry and essays. The participating organizations will send representatives to attend the ceremony along with seven Holocaust survivors who are members of the Phoenix Holocaust Association.
“Leaders from the community will be lighting candles alongside Holocaust survivors,” Hamu said. “Six candles to represent the 6 million lives lost in the Holocaust.”
The ceremony is part of SCC’s annual Genocide Awareness Week, which begins April 15. The week features lectures, exhibits and speaking engagements by politicians, scholars, law enforcement officials and artists. Genocide Awareness Week Director John Liffiton, who will be at the ceremony to light a candle with a survivor, said he’s glad Shevet Shemesh is using the SCC as the site for this first public remembrance ceremony. He hopes the college will be a home for the scouts in the future.
“It’s important to remember the victims to work towards a world without genocide, but it’s also important to honor each and every one of the victims because if we don’t then they will have died in vain,” Liffiton said in a prepared statement.
“Scottsdale Community College has been great to work with,” Hamu said. “They really helped us put this all together.”
Shevet Shemesh is part of Tzofim Tzabar, which is designed to connect North American Hebrew-speaking children. The local group meets weekly to participate in activities, all conducted in Hebrew, that are designed to foster leadership and the promotion of Jewish and Israeli values.
Hamu expects more than 600 people will attend the remembrance ceremony. JN