“Remembering is no passive act.” Governor Kathy Hochul
Chappaqua, NY – At the Town of New Castle’s annual Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony on April 24, 2023, everyone in attendance at the bucolic site of the Holocaust Memorial, and in proximity to sacred stone benches memorializing Holocaust survivors Jacob Breitstein and Jack Feldman, had the opportunity to bear witness by listening to an elegant and determined keynote speaker: Holocaust Survivor Arlette Levy Baker. That opportunity is growing increasingly precious as the survivors age and pass on.
Baker, who taught French and classical Latin for 21 years at the Robert E. Bell Middle School in Chappaqua, offered a devastating account of her parents being arrested in front of her at her home in Paris when she was just four years old, how she cried Mama and Papa until the very moment of separation, of how her father bribed a Nazi, saving her from her parents’ own cruel fate first at Drancy concentration camp and later in Auschwitz, where they perished.
She described a life shattered by these events which haunt her to this day.
Prior to her testimony, and near the start of the ceremony, New Castle received a proclamation from Governor Hochul recognizing the town’s Holocaust and Human Rights Committee and students of E.N.O.U.G.H. for its solemn observance and for the town’s and people’s “strength and perseverance.”
The full proclamation was read by Eva Wyner, Deputy Director of Jewish Affairs for Governor Kathy Hochul, who also read Hochul’s statement “to help honor the memory of six million lives taken during the darkest chapter of human history… to reflect on the atrocities of the past… to reaffirm our commitment to never forget… to take our righteous anger and sadness and turn it into action… to not only listen to the stories of those who survived but to heed their warnings of the devastation that can be wrought when hate is allowed to fester… to continue the legacy of courage of standing up to evil. Remembering is no passive act.”
Wyner, a daughter and granddaughter of survivors, reminded that in the last two years antisemitic incidents in NYC have more than doubled, and also hit an all time high in New York State. In response, she said, Hochul earmarked millions of dollars toward a state hate and bias prevention unit. She also signed a Holocaust education bill into law “so that every child who grows up in New York will know what ‘Never Forget’ truly means.” The service included a statement read by Ally Chemtob on behalf of New Castle Town Supervisor Lisa Katz; remarks by Deputy County executive Ken Jenkins; a representative from Congressman Lawler’s office who issued a Congressional Proclamation; remarks by Stacey Saiontz and Ali Rosenberg, co-chairs, Holocaust and Human Rights Committee and by Jack Rosenberg and Elliott Saiontz, co-presidents of E.N.O.U.G.H. Writing and art contest awards to middle and high school students were presented by committee members Rhonda Regan and Pat Pollock and E.N.O.U.G.H. students Eva Millerman and Robyn Keiles.
A beautiful Memorial Candle Lighting took place which included a gathering of middle school and high school students, and Arlette Levy Baker lighting one of the candles with the E.N.O.U.G.H. Club students.
Included in and concluding the service was a Mourners Kaddish reading and songs and additional remarks by local clergy who included: Rabbi Aaron Brusso of Bet Torah Synagogue, Cantor Ines Kapustiansky of Temple Shaaray Tefilla and the Rev. Dr. Martha Jacobs of the First Congregational Church speaking also on behalf of Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe of Temple Beth El and the Interfaith Council. Also attending were the Rev. Alan Christopher Lee of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin and Rev. Merle D. McJunkin of the Antioch Baptist Church. Gratitude was also expressed to the New Castle Parks & Recreation staff for their help maintaining the New Castle Holocaust Memorial.