VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — For the lighting of the Holocaust memorial candle, per tradition, there is no prayer or blessing to capsulize a horrific era that could have been prevented.
Six million Jews and five million other men, women and children perished during World War II in German-occupied Europe.
“Though we [Jews] were in the gas chambers with all kinds of other people — the gypsies, gays, political opponents of the Nazi regime — but only the Jewish people were targeted for the ‘Final Solution‘: the destruction of the Jewish people from the entire planet. No such plan was ever devised in the annuals of humanity,” said Rabbi Israel Zoberman, founder of Temple Lev Tikvah in Virginia Beach.
Several members of Zoberman’s family were killed, including the Goorvitz family of Sarny, Ukraine. They were murdered with their community of 14,000 Jews on Aug. 27 and 28, 1942.
Zoberman, a fixture in Hampton Roads for 30 years, is sounding the alarm about disturbing recent events that have taken place on United States soil.
The 2017 Unite the Right rally-turned-deadly-riot in Charlottesville revealed a display of white supremacy that attracted hate groups from all over the country.
“Those who marched there with torches — Nazi-style — yelling and shouting in the dark of night ‘Jews will not replace us,'” said Zoberman, referencing the event that started with opposition to the removal of a Confederate monument.
Last year, Zoberman, a member of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission, called for the removal of the city’s Confederate monument following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Zoberman called the knee-on-neck chokehold used to kill Floyd Nazi-esque.
Zoberman is also closely monitoring pandemic-inspired attacks against Asians and Pacific Islanders. Some say former President Donald Trump set the stage for the attacks by using terms such as “China virus” and another term that is considered a racial slur in reference to the deadly coronavirus.
“The Asian Americans who are being abused right now, we have to remember to protect each human life,” said Zoberman.
On Jan. 6, 2021, at the seat of democracy, democracy itself was under attack. A mob traveled to Washington D.C. and breached the Capitol building, leaving five people dead including a Capitol Police officer. More than 300 people are facing federal charges and more are expected.
The FBI is in the process of prosecuting hundreds who participated and/ or conspired in the attack including a man from Hampton, Virginia, who was photographed wearing a T-shirt that read: “Camp Auschwitz.”
“Auschwitz staff? Can you imagine a fellow American would wear such a shirt?” said Zoberman.
Zoberman says the nation must work harder to preserve our fragile democracy.
“To make sure that Lady Liberty — that welcomed so many refugees from all nationalities, races and religions — will not weep. I believe right now, she is weeping for our children,” Zoberman said.
The Virginian-Pilot on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021 published a guest column penned by Zoberman.