University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • North California Jewish Bulletin

    North California Jewish Bulletin

    The Northern California Jewish Bulletin, March 29, 1991.


    Photos by Mike Richman

    E. Bay Jewish community marks Yom HaShoah in Walnut Creek, Oakland

    Above. More than 350 at the Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) community observance at Congregation B'nai Shalom service in Walnut Creek (sponsored by the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center and area synagogues) watch Gina Rosnow (left photo) light one of six memorial candies. At the Temple Sinai observance in Oakland (right photo), meanwhile, more than 1,200 people see (from left) Rabbi Steven Chester, artist Peter Bolger and event chairman Rene Molho unveil Bolger's Holocaust memorial sculpture. The Oakland observance was sponsored by Alameda County synagogues.

    Sinai will dedicate powerful memorial to 6 million Jews

    mohloby Tamar Kaufman
    Of the Bulletin Staff

    Six candles for the 6 million Jews who died during the Holocaust and a seventh candle -- for hope -- will illuminate a new permanent memorial during this year's community Yom Hashoah observance at Temple Sinai in Oakland.

    The ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 10 at the synagogue, 2808 Summit St., where cantors from the sponsoring synagogues in Alameda County will participate and Consul of Israel Anna Azari will speak.

    Another Yom Hashoah observance will be held at 7:30 that evening at Congregation B'nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek. During that service, cosponsored by the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center and synagogues throughout the county, Rabbi Gordon Freeman will discuss the affirmation of faith in .the post-Holocaust world, and the Contra Costa Midrasha choir will perform.

    Information about both community services is available from the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Greater East Bay at 839-2900.

    After the service at Sinai, the bronze memorial by Piedmont sculptor Peter Boiger will hang permanently in the synagogue's entrance.

    The Holocaust "is one of the most significant events that happened in Jewish history and really has formed the psyche of the Jew living in today's world," says Rabbi Steven Chester. "For these reasons, every congregation should have a memorial to the 6 million who perished in the Holocaust."

    The tangible memorial also "makes it easier for all of us to never forget what can happen to our people -- and to all peoples -- when hatred and prejudice rule the world."

    René Molho, a survivor of Auschwitz who lost his entire family in the Holocaust, spearheaded the drive to install a permanent memorial at the synagogue.

    Like the rabbi, Molho says every congregation should permanently commemorate the Holocaust. As one of the few survivors of the ancient Greek Jewish community of Salonika, he adds, "I think it was very important for me to start it."

    The rectangular hanging sculpture to be dedicated at Sinai actually is a menorah in bronze relief -- except that a line of six twisted and distorted faces, pushing out from behind barbed war, takes the place of flames above a protruding row of six candle holders. One of the central faces is markedly different from the others; clearly that of a woman, it has a readable expression and its mouth is open, forever frozen in a silent plea.

    Beneath the candle holders is the Hebrew word Shoah - Holocaust.

    The outline of a concentration camp watchtower dominates the rough-textured background and to the left of the faces is a list of well-known camps followed by the words "always remember." The lowest feature, in a line with "Shoah," is another lone candle-holder.

    "I wanted to keep it relatively simple but still to put the message across as strongly as possible,explains the sculptor, who for 2-1 /2 years worked on a giant installation for Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial.

    The Valley of the Destroyed Communities, which has been under construction in Jerusalem since 1985 and is scheduled for completion within the year, is a two-acre environmental maze with 27-foot-high walls of Jerusalem stone.

    "The experience I had working on the memorial in Yad Vashem left me so exhausted, mentally and emotionally, that I didn't think I'd be able to work on [the Holocaust] again," Boiger admits.

    But when he was asked to participate in a competition to design a memorial for Temple Sinai, "I thought I should do it." His design for the Sinai sculpture was chosen from eight contenders.

    The German-born sculptor, who lived in Israel for seven years, cast the piece there and then had it shipped to his studio in Point Reyes.

    Asked why he casts his bronze work so far away he replies, "It gives me a reason to visit and keep up contacts. I wish I could go back more often."

    Boiger, who also works in stone and wood, currently has other pieces on display at the Claudia Chapline Gallery in Stinson Beach from April 21 through June 2.