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Marking Yom HaShoah at Sinai Synagogue

Sinai Synagogue Leeds presented two talks to commemorate Yom HaShoah.

On Monday, April 13, Professor Griselda Pollock, Professor of Social & Critical Histories of Art, Leeds University, spoke on the theme of how we remember the Holocaust. How do we remember the Holocaust culturally? What are the politics and ethics of remembrance? In a preamble, Professor Pollock wrote: ‘Given that David Cameron has finally announced a Holocaust Memorial in Britain, is this a time for reflection on Holocaust Memory in the era when there will soon be no witnesses left and we will learn about it from monuments and museums, novels and films?’

Then, on Thursday, 16 April, Sinai member Dr Dolf Mogendorff gave a talk entitled ‘In Hiding’, the true story of the parents of author Peter Hein, in hiding in Holland during the Holocaust. He said, ‘In this presentation we will look at their times of fear, hunger and cold while being moved from one hiding place to another, at times barely escaping with their lives, but ultimately surviving and being reunited with their small son who survived in hiding separated from his parents. Coincidentally, we are related to Peter – his daughter is married to our nephew.’ The presentation included excerpts from Peter’s recent book, not yet available in English.

Gwynneth Lewis, Sinai’s Director of Education, said: “I’m so pleased that Sinai was able to put on two significant and special events to teach about aspects of the Shoah. Both talks were very well received, and followed by numerous questions. It’s so important to commemorate the Shoah and to ensure that the knowledge is transmitted down the generations”.

Participant Liz Monaghan said: “Professor Pollock delivered an engaging, timely and thought-provoking talk which explored how shared memory emerges following such a trauma. Her extensive and sensitive understanding of what academics term ‘Holocaust narratives’ provided a rich variety of source materials through which she showed how the sometimes perplexing perspectives came to represent a cultural memory: she began by clarifying the differences between the terms ‘Holocaust’ and ‘Shoah’, a helpful starting point for what followed. Art, literature, public memorials and monuments, Holocaust museums and film were used to show how the Holocaust/Shoah is represented in different ways, each constructed out of a particular cultural or personal narrative. Through the use of a timeline, we saw how delays in the publication of testimony and the increasing use of mass media shifted public perceptions and understandings in the years and decades following the end of World War II. Professor Pollock’s lecture provided a new and stimulating perspective on what is, for many, an intensely poignant subject”.

And from Linda Harrison: “Dr Mogendorff’s talk about Peter Hein’s book, ‘In Hiding’, was told with such gentleness and respect. The courage of those in hiding, the courage that it must have taken to send your children away to keep them safe, and the courage of those who hid the Jews… and then the courage to live on with the traumatic memory. It is hard to find words to respond. After Dolf’s talk I just wanted to be alone, to try to comprehend the horror and the bravery of people. Thank you, Dolf, for your courage to share what is also a part of your own history”.

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