Each candle on the table represented 1 million Jewish people who were killed in the Holocaust. There were six candles.
That equates to the 6 million innocent people, Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow said, who were slain because of the religion they practice.
And the more than 200 people at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre in Carmel, watching as the shiva candles were illuminated one by one, all shared the same desires: to never forget what happened to nearly two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population at the time, and to never let it happen again.
It wasn’t just the number of candles on the stage. It’s also the number of days since a woman was killed and three others were injured in a shooting at a California synagogue.
The gathering to remember those who died in the genocide comes less than a week after the shooting at Chabad of Poway, about 25 miles northeast of San Diego. Sendrow, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard and Holocaust survivor Esther Davidson, joined by her daughter and granddaughter, were among the event’s speakers.
Davidson was born in Poland in 1941, a time when Jewish people were being concentrated into ghettos throughout the country. Many of her family members were killed during the Holocaust.
As old pictures of those family members flashed across a projector, Davidson said how she’s related to them. One was her aunt. One was her uncle. One was her cousin.
But she didn’t know any of their names.
“They didn’t live past the ages you see them (pictured),” she said.
Shortly after she was born, Davidson’s parents gave her to a Christian woman who claimed her as her granddaughter. She wore a crucifix and went to church every Sunday.
“My mom gave me to Reba so that if she was caught, perhaps I might remain safe,” Davidson said.
She reunited with her parents after World War II, when she was 4 years old. But it wasn’t a happy reunion. They were strangers.
“I didn’t know them, and they wanted to take me away (from Reba),” she said.
Davidson and her parents lived in a displaced persons camp from 1945-1949 before they came to the U.S. She was at that camp when she saw a doll for the first time.
Then, in America, she was finally free.
“Here, you’re allowed to dream, and your dreams come true,” Davidson said.
The Holocaust was more than 70 years ago. And still, atrocities against Jewish people continue.
The Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council said in October that “anti-Semitic acts and expressions” are at an all-time high. Just three months earlier, Sendrow’s own Congregation Shaarey Tefilla was tagged with anti-Semitic graffiti.
And that’s just Indiana. In addition to the Chabad of Poway shooting, the Jewish community also continues to reel from a shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 people dead.
“This is the United States of America, not Nazi Germany,” Brainard said. “Every patriotic American must speak out against intolerance. And we must speak out every day, whenever we see it.”
“We must do this over and over and over, so that we can truly say ‘never again.'”