South Orange and Maplewood community gathers to ‘Remember & Tell’

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — South Orange and Maplewood’s interfaith Holocaust remembrance service, “Remember & Tell,” made its return to an in-person ceremony on May 15, bringing together local clergy from all religious affiliations and residents from both towns to light candles in memory of the millions of people killed during the Holocaust. Held at Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange, the service featured survivors sharing their stories and guest speaker Anne Millman, who shared her parents’ experience during the Holocaust. Eve Morawski was awarded the Sister Rose Thering Holocaust Education Award.

“We are survivors, we the children and grandchildren of survivors,” Rabbi Abigail Treu from Oheb Shalom said at the ceremony. “We are friends in faith and love gathering across religious divides to share this moment of memory. In our gathering, we are the core not only of a new Jewish revival, but a revival of faith across religious lines, a community who in our diversity of faith is united in love even as hate continues to be something to unite against.”

The Kol Dodi MetroWest Choir, Voices in Harmony and Oheb Shalom Chorale all performed at the service, along with accompanist David Schlossberg. Throughout the ceremony, candles were lit in memory of the many people who were killed by the Nazis; among the lighters, David Meir lit candles in memory of his grandparents, Rubin and Ilse Weinryb, and Sam Gruer lit candles in memory of his parents, Cecile and Morris Gruer.

Spread throughout the service were videos of Holocaust survivors who told their stories and lit candles in memory of their own family members and friends. Hedy Brasch, Fred Heyman, Paulette Korssia Wolfe Dorflaufer, Adele Rappaport, Danuta Kozlowski, Hanna Keselman, Gerda Bikales and Norbert Bikales all had videos. Most of them were also present at the event.

Millman, when speaking about her parents’ experience during the Holocaust, said she was well into adulthood before learning most of her family history.

“I learned very little about how my parents survived what they called ‘the war,’” Millman said. “I knew from a very young age that my mother had lost her entire family. I also knew that my father had lost his parents and four of his seven younger siblings. I knew that the Nazis had murdered them and millions of other Jews, and millions of others as well. Beyond that, all my parents told me was that they had been hidden by a Polish family somewhere in the countryside near Warsaw. No names, no stories, no details.”

Millman, her mother and her son took a trip to Poland in 1992 and visited Holocaust sites. On that trip, her mother said she would tell Millman the truth but swore her family to secrecy.

“First, she swore us to secrecy, lest her story reach the wrong ears and lead to terrible retribution,” Millman said. “I couldn’t imagine what she meant. What followed bore no resemblance to the story I had known all those years.”

Millman said her parents had fled Poland and ended up in labor camps in Siberia. Millman didn’t get all of the details on that trip, but over the next decade her father would draw some of his memories, and she would ask other family members about them to fill in the gaps.

“I couldn’t help but wonder why it was so frightening and potentially dangerous for them to share this information,” Millman said. “Gradually, I came to understand.”

In Poland, her father was a commercial artist who mostly drew and painted signs, advertisements, political cartoons and set designs for a Jewish theater. Her mother was a math student who supported herself by knitting and crocheting. When they fled Poland after the Nazi invasion, they were arrested and sent to the labor camp in Russia. Eventually, Millman’s father was asked to paint portraits of government officials.

“No doubt he fared better than most, because his working conditions were so much better and safer,” Millman said, adding that the military in charge of the labor camp sent her parents to Kazakhstan, which was a more central location. That’s where Millman was born a year later.

“Undoubtedly, my father’s decision to flee Poland and the lucky break he got because of his skill as an artist helped save them,” Millman said. “When the war was over in 1945, my parents went back to Poland to check on their families. No one was left for them there.”

Millman’s family then went to Austria and eventually to Germany, where they stayed until late 1950. They applied to immigrate to the United States, but their years in Russia were potentially a problem because of the suspicion and accusations leveled against anyone with possible communist connections.

“Being skilled survivors, they did what they had to do and came to the United States,” Millman said. “The truth of their past was their secret. Even after the McCarthy scourge was over, they could never be confident of their status. Dad continued to paint and exhibit, even as he made a living in commercial art. As I later learned, he always pulled away from any publicity that may have led to an interview and questions about his past. He didn’t want to lie, but he couldn’t safely tell the truth.”

Millman sharing her family’s story is a key tenet of “l’dor v’dor,” the Jewish principle of passing information from one generation to the next. Therefore, education, especially about Jewish history, is incredibly important.

The Sister Rose Thering Holocaust Education Award is named in memory of Rose Thering, a nun who worked at Seton Hall University and was one of the founding members of the two towns’ interfaith Holocaust memorial service. Thering was active in building bridges between different religions. Morawski, who grew up in Maplewood, received the award.

“This is not a field of study for me, though I have researched everything I talk about,” Morawski said at the service. “This is my family’s history, of which I am deeply proud.”

Her mother, who was a teenager at the time, was taken from her family by the Russians and sent to Siberia. As an adult, she made her way to the United States. In 1967, the British Red Cross sent a telegram to Morawski’s mother in Maplewood, saying that Morawski’s grandmother had survived and was looking for her. They reunited in 1969 in Poland.

Morawski’s father was a member of the Polish army and was captured by the Nazis. After the war, he finished his civil engineering degree in England and immigrated with Morawski’s mother to New York through a work visa from the British engineering firm he worked for.

“I am the youngest of the second generation I know who speaks of a parent, not a grandparent, in a concentration camp,” Morawski said. “It was a very different perspective from my peers. But at our holiday table, my parents always included those like us who were starting out and had no family here. Both of my parents could have been so bitter about what they went through, but they chose not to be. They looked forward, were hopeful and had a diverse group of friends. I’m so grateful for their example and sacrifices.”

The full service can be viewed online at

Photos by Amanda Valentovic