WASHINGTON, DC – Sephardic Heritage International in DC (SHIN-DC) invites interested members of the public to participate in the Fifth Annual Congressional Holocaust Commemoration on Thursday, January 26, 5-6:30 PM (ET), at the Hart Senate Building in Congressional Hearing Room SH-216. This hybrid program will include remarks from Members of Congress: Senator Ben Cardin; Rep. Kathy Manning, Co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combatting Antisemitism; Rep. Anthony D’Esposito; Rep. Jared Moskowitz; Rep. Jan Schakowsky; and Rep. Brandon Williams.
The theme for this year’s program is ‘The Holocaust and War Refugees in the Far East and Beyond’ – occurring as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida begins his visit to the U.S. and as Israel and Japan celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations. Also joining the program are Sawsan Natour Hasson, Minister for Public Diplomacy at the Embassy of Israel, and Tomoaki Ishigaki, Minister of Congressional Affairs at the Embassy of Japan.
The program will feature Eric Kisch, who lived in Shanghai as a Holocaust refugee and S. David Moche, who grew up in the Sephardic Jewish community in Kobe, Japan. Mr. Moche has spearheaded a project documenting the history and narratives of Japan’s Jewish communities during World War II, including Holocaust refugees who found safety there and the Sephardic Jews who played an important role in their entry to Japan.
Memorial candles will be lit by special guests, including Holocaust survivors and their descendants, as well as representatives from the Embassies of Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, and Japan.
The commemoration’s congressional sponsors are Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Jamie Raskin, who is the commemoration’s founding Congressional sponsor. Congressman Raskin announced last month that he is undergoing cancer treatment. His Chief of Staff Leesa Klepper will attend and offer remarks. Sephardic Heritage International in DC wishes Congressman Raskin a refuah sheleima – a swift and complete healing. We will miss his powerful presence this time.
The program will close with commemorative music from Trio Sefardi. This ensemble is composed of proteges of the late Flora Jagoda, a Holocaust survivor and DC area resident who became a champion of Ladino music.
SHIN-DC Director Afraim Katzir said he is pleased that the commemoration will once again be held in-person. “This program will build on our pandemic-time 2021 commemoration, when Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla – a Sephardic Jew from Greece who led the global effort to develop the COVID vaccine – shared his family’s tragic Holocaust history. It will also build on the 2022 commemoration that featured David Baruch, a Greek Holocaust survivor, Nobuki Sugihara, the son of Righteous Among the Nations Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara who issued hundreds of transit visas to Polish and Lithuanian Jews, and Nat Lewin, a Holocaust survivor who received his transit visa from Mr. Sugihara.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez also offered remarks highlighting how Sephardic Jews in Europe and the Mediterranean were targeted by Nazi Germany’s efforts to systematically eradicate all Jews and were among the six million Jewish lives extinguished during the Holocaust.
Last year The Jerusalem Post reported: “Part of what makes this commemoration special is that it showcases speakers from diverse backgrounds and provides education on often-omitted Sephardic and Romaniote narratives of the Holocaust.”
The event is organized by Sephardic Heritage International (SHIN-DC), a DC-based non-profit that focuses on celebrating Sephardic arts and culture and raises awareness of the histories of the world’s under-represented Jewish communities.
Those interested may register for this hybrid event at www.shindc.org/chc2023.
The registration deadline for in-person attendance is January 25, but participants may register to participate via Zoom until January 26.