On Saturday, April 18, Federation joined San Diego’s North County Jewish community for their joint Yom HaShoah Ceremony. The North County Holocaust Commemoration Ceremony, in its fourth year, is an annual collaboration between Temple Adat Shalom and Congregation Ner Tamid. This year, Federation was delighted to have the opportunity to sponsor and partake in the moving community-wide ceremony.
The North County Commemoration was more than just a Yom HaShoah ceremony. This unique, collaborative effort came about more than four years ago when Rabbi David Castiglione and Cantor Lori Frank of Temple Adat Shalom and Rabbi Nadav Caine of Congregation Ner Tamid met to discuss the limitations they were experiencing in regards to serving the needs of the large Jewish population residing in North County San Diego.
“We realized that there was no one ‘center’ to the San Diego Jewish community, and that by having multiple centers as anchors to Jewish life and community in San Diego makes us stronger,” said Rabbi Caine. “After all, North County Inland has a large Jewish community with three major synagogues that are within walking distance from each other, and that was what led us to establish our first joint Yom HaShoah Ceremony almost five years ago.”
Since its inception, each year, the North County Yom HaShoah Commemoration Ceremony features a narrative of a local Holocaust survivor that is read by the rabbis; a sermon that applies the message of Yom HaShoah to today; and the lighting of ‘the seventh memorial candle’ – a candle lit to remember survivors who have since passed and joined their relatives in the next life. Every year, the service begins with North County Holocaust survivors being escorted to the front of the congregation by children to symbolize l’dor vador – from generation to generation, which is a major highlight of the ceremony.
This year, more than 200 San Diegans were in attendance for the annual ceremony. Dr. Steven Windmueller, PH.D., Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, delivered the sermon. Dr. Windmueller discussed what it means when we say ‘never again’ and spoke about global anti-Semitism.
This year’s narrative featured the memoir of Ner Tamid Congregant, Walter Steinweg z”ll.
Walter survived a grueling ordeal of labor for many years while working as a juvenile for the SS, mostly in the Riga Ghetto, where he watched both of his parents and family members die. After he was liberated, Walter came to the U.S., but was only granted citizenship upon agreeing to enlist in the armed forces to serve in the frontlines of the Korean War. Walter Steinweg passed away this past year, and his beloved wife Marilyn lit "the seventh memorial candle."
“The collaboration that is currently happening between North County Jewish communal organizations is incredible to witness, and I look forward to seeing such collaborations throughout the entire Jewish community of San Diego,” said Michael Sonduck, CEO of Federation.
Collaborative efforts and events between North County temples and synagogues have yielded impressive results. This year, both organizations teamed up for an annual “Global Day of Jewish Learning” event, where both religious schools and adult education programs are combined into a special curriculum for a Sunday morning celebration of Jewish education.
“This is the first year the Jewish Federation of San Diego County has sponsored this Saturday night service as the North County Inland Yom HaShoah service,” said Rabbi Nadav Caine. “ We hope to continue [such] collaboration by reaching out to other Jewish groups in Inland [and beyond] to join us.”
The North County Yom HaShoah Ceremony illustrates how Federation is actively building community partnerships to create a stronger, more inclusive, vibrant, and sustainable Jewish community.