April 20, 2007
The Office of
Community Relations at St. John’s University honored the memory
of the Holocaust on April 20 with a Jewish Heritage Day event
titled: “A Day of Remembrance…The Second Generation Speaks” in
Council Hall on the University’s Queens campus.
“We realize that many of the surrounding community members and
over 1,000 of our students are Jewish,” said Joe Sciame, St. John’s
Vice President for Community Relations. “We have a responsibility
to them and an obligation to educate as many people as we can about
the Holocaust and how we can prevent such a tragedy from happening
A panel of guest speakers from the local community, including
several first and second generation survivors shared their
memories, inspiring and reminding guests the importance of the day
while sharing a uniform message.
“If we don’t continue to reexamine and revisit the Holocaust, we
can not prevent something like this from happening in the future,”
said Rabbi Manes Kogan of the Hillcrest Jewish Center. Rev. Patrick
Flanagan, C.M., Professor of Theology at St. John’s University
echoed those sentiments in a short prayer.
Bernard Gottfryd, who was a teenager in Poland in 1939 when he
was forced into a concentration camp, commanded the attention of
the standing-room only crowd, with his descriptive recount of his
personal experience during the Holocaust. Gottfryd recalled
the horrors he witnessed, as well as his own turmoil.
Starving, he ate blades of grass and bread crumbs made with sawdust
– when he was lucky enough to find them, and saw tens of thousands
of people killed, yet managed to keep his spirit high enough to
“Even though you know there is no way out, you hope and pray for
some sort of miracle,” Gottfryd said. “The one thing you
could do was dream – that was the only thing the Nazi’s couldn’t
take from you. To dream, you keep a spark alive.”
Like most of the speakers throughout the morning, Gottfryd
reminded the crowd of its obligation to prevent this from happening
and to protect against racism and other prejudices stating, “We
must extend ourselves to help (people), no matter who they are – or
the color of their skin.”
Speakers included Dr. Arthur Flug, Executive Director of the
Kupferberg Holocaust Resource and Archive Center of Queensborough
Community College, CUNY, and Cynthia Zalisky, Executive Director of
the Queens Jewish Community Council, who spoke about her
reflections as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.
Mark Kandkhorov, the President of St. John’s University’s Jewish
Students Association, read an essay by Rabbi Meir Kahane titled
“Dear World” that spoke of the plight of Jews throughout
history. Kandkhorov reiterated the day’s theme once again
asking the survivors to “tell the world your story, make sure it’s
recorded so we will continue to tell it in the future, because you
are our past.”
Queens Borough President, The Honorable Helen Marshall,
presented Sciame and the St. John's Jewish Students Association
with a Declaration of Honor for hosting the event and praised the
University for its continued efforts. “St. John’s is a
Catholic University – but they understand, they understand,” she
said. “This is a terrific University.”
Assemblyman Rory Lancman’s (25th Assembly District) office also
issued the University a citation for its “unwavering commitment to
recognizing the atrocities of the Holocaust.”
Two musical pieces were shared by Yuri and Daniel Beliavsky
(violinist and pianist), during the morning of reflection.
Following the formal presentations, the mood was lightened during a
luncheon for all those participating, where guests were once again
entertained by the Beliavsky’s.
Co-hosts and sponsors of the event were the Kupferberg Holocaust
Center of Queensborough Community College and Skyline Commons, an
adult housing program in the local Queens community on Parsons
For additional information about Jewish Heritage Day at St.
John’s, contact Joseph Sciame, Vice President for Community
Relations at St. John’s University at (718) 990-1941.
For media inquiries, please contact Elizabeth Reilly, Assistant
Director of Media Relations, at (718) 990-5789, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For
additional news about St. John’s, please visit www.stjohns.edu/news.