One by one, a half dozen or more young people lit candles at the front of Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul on Thursday night.
“I am a ‘memory keeper’; I light this candle in memory of my great-grandmother . . . my grandfather . . . my great-aunt,” they said, each referring to a member of their family affected by the Holocaust.
Later, more than a dozen older people, all Holocaust survivors, lit candles to remember those lost to the slaughter of 6 million Jews and others at the hands of Nazis.
Young and old were among more than 600 people gathered for the observance of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year’s commemoration bore the theme “Coming of Age During the Shoah: Survivor Stories.”
Shofar horns were blown as the crowd stood silent. Sons, granddaughters and grandsons told stories of their loved ones from before, during and after World War II.
During the mourners’ Kaddish, Rabbi Esther Adler read the names of the camps — Auschwitz, Lodz, Ponar, Kovno, Birkenau and others — in Hebrew; the crowd repeated them in English. Songs and prayers were sung in both languages.
Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, presented this year’s Leo Weiss Courage to Teach Award to Candice Ledman, a teacher at Wayzata High School.
Ledman began teaching about the Holocaust in response to students’ questions about how such atrocities could happen. She brought local survivor Esther Begam to her class. After Begam said the war prevented her from getting a high school diploma, Ledman created a graduation ceremony for the 89-year-old woman to receive her diploma from Wayzata in 2017.
“She inspires me every day to make sure the next generation knows her story and others like hers so that it will never happen again,” Ledman said.
The award is named for the late Leo Weiss, a former Minnesotan whose family — parents and two siblings — defied the odds during the Nazi occupation of Poland and survived.