North West Surrey Synagogue in Weybridge held their annual Yom HaShoah Remembrance on Wednesday, 4 May.
The programme was titled ‘Butterflies & Suitcases’ and as Event Chair Jean Cohen explained: “Past programmes have often had one speaker, relating his or her first-person experience of the Holocaust. We took a different approach this year.”
The programme focused on two of the most evocative yet disparate symbols of the Holocaust– suitcases and butterflies, looking at how they have been used to represent the Holocaust, and their continuing resonance.
Readers read essays about particular suitcases and their owners, how suitcases are metaphorically used in Holocaust art, and looked at ‘luggage’ of a different sort – the ‘emotional baggage’ Holocaust survivors passed on to their children.
Essays also illustrated how children used the symbolism of butterflies in humankind’s darkest hours, and two programmes that poignantly used the butterfly to honour and remember those youngest victims were highlighted.
Following the service, NWSS member Leyla Cemiloglu sang a vocal arrangement of Pavel Friedman’s iconic poem ‘I Never Saw Another Butterfly’.
Attendees were then directed to place the small butterflies they were given when they arrived in a special suitcase created for the event by members Julie and Rebecca Menhennett from their personal family mementos, the evening’s somewhat unconventional observance of the Jewish tradition of placing a pebble on the headstone of a grave.