Tree of Life congregant speaks at Holocaust remembrance in Greensburg
Retired University of Pittsburgh history professor Seymour Drescher has long spoken about anti-Semitism, and at various times throughout his long career, has seen firsthand hate’s impact.
Last fall, he saw it again when members of his own community, friends and fellow worshippers, were gunned down in the deadliest incident of anti-Semitism in U.S. history.
A member of the Tree of Life Congregation in Squirrel Hill, Drescher had just driven into the parking lot last Oct. 27 when he was warned by congregants about the gunman inside who had just shot and killed 11 in the synagogue just after services had started that morning.
During a speech Sunday at the Congregation Emanu-El Israel in Greensburg as part of a Holocaust remembrance service, Drescher talked about the importance of never allowing the memory of the deaths of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis drift away and how history’s lessons can help stem the tide of today’s antisemitism.
“We need people of different religions to speak up,” Drescher said. “We need to say you cannot do this. The struggle comes in waves, but they can’t reach the final wave.”
Drescher and his wife, Ruth, were impacted by the Holocaust. He said many of his family members were killed in Europe by the Nazis. His wife is a Holocaust survivor whose family was able to escape Germany when she was 5 years old.
Sunday’s service was sponsored by Congregation Emanu-El Israel, along with the Greater Latrobe Ministerial Association, the Greensburg Ministerium, The Westmoreland Jewish Community Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Seton Hill University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, the Greensburg-Jeannette NAACP, The YWCA Westmoreland County and the Westmoreland Diversity Council.
The names of some of the Nazi’s victims were read during the service, identifying the ages and locations of where they were killed.
Organizers said it is important to remember.
“Theses lessons cannot be ignored,” Rabbi Stacy L. Petersohn said. “If we ignore it we are doomed to repeat it.”
Religious leaders said the Tree of Life massacre, church shootings earlier this year in New Zealand, bombings in Sri Lanka along with last week’s synagogue shooting in California, are even more incentive to keep the horrors of the Holocaust in view.
“We can’t forget. There have been too many of these now, and we can’t get lost in the present. This (the Holocaust) is something we can’t forget,” said the Rev. William Schaefer, pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Latrobe.
Wilda Kaylor, associate director of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education at Seton Hill University, said a growing number of people seeking to deny the Nazi terror makes it all the more important to continue to observe the Holocaust and its impact. She also said Drescher’s call out of anti-Semitism is one that should come from across all religions.
“He’s right,” Kaylor said. “It has to be interfaith to show solidarity with one another.”
Drescher said that as anti-Semitism continues, so too, should memories of the Holocaust.
“The time to stop these things is now. It’s time to take the steam out of it.”
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .