REGINA — The annual Holocaust memorial service, Yom Hoshoah, held April 25 at Beth Jacob Synagogue, was more sombre than usual this year owing to the unexpected death of Amek Adler.
A Holocaust survivor, Adler was scheduled to speak to a morning audience of about 1,000 students from the Regina Catholic and Public school divisions gathered at Resurrection Roman Catholic Church, and again to the evening congregation at the synagogue. The waiting audience was shocked to hear that Adler had died earlier that morning.
Synagogue president Barry Braitman welcomed everybody to the evening service and announced Adler’s death. He referred to the candles set up in a row on top of the lectern and lit the first one.
Regina Wascana member of Parliament Ralph Goodale, representing the Government of Canada, said, “It is essential for us to be here tonight. It is about 70 years ago that this happened and it is fading into history. We have a responsibility to speak out for future generations to come to live up to the promise of ‘Never Again.’ There is no such thing as a faceless individual; it did happen to people like us sitting here tonight.” He then lit the second candle.
Other guests brought greetings and each lit a candle until six were burning, representing the six million Jews who died during the Holocaust.
MLA Muhammad Fiaz said it was an honour for him to be at the service on behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan. He asked for a moment of silence for Adler. “The world cannot be silent,” said Fiaz. “We have to teach our children, that the freedom like we have in Saskatchewan cannot be taken for granted. We remember, because millions still suffer, and we must face the terrible Holocaust.” He then lit the third candle.
Interim NDP leader Trent Wotherspoon described the loss of Adler as profound, but his story lives on in his book, Six Lost Years. “It is a story of resilience to an unimaginable evil, and about strength. Adler never lost hope.” He then asked everyone to take some time to reflect on Saskatchewan’s motto, ‘From Many, Strength.’ ” He lit the fourth candle.
Regina city councillor Barbara Young said the Holocaust teaches the high cost of prejudice. She lit the fifth candle.
David Arnot, chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, reminded everyone that Saskatchewan passed the first Bill of Rights in Canada in 1948. The bill was written by Morris Shumiatcher, a Canadian lawyer noted internationally for his work in human rights and civil liberties, and a member of Beth Jacob Synagogue.
“Canada is very blessed,” Arnot said, but noted that 52 per cent of Canadians do not support multiculturalism. Arnot noted that anti-Semitism is on the rise and that the Holocaust began with words: “Education is the base that leads to understanding, tolerance and empathy.” He lit the last of the six candles.
Rabbi Jeremy Parnes lit a seventh candle as a memorial to Adler. Parnes continued with the program that had been prepared prior to Adler’s demise and announced specific dates in Adler’s Holocaust journey. He read a brief excerpt from Six Lost Years, which was followed by a short video of Adler talking about what happened on that date.
The Leo Morgan Community Choir performed several short pieces and the 23rd Psalm was recited at the end of the service. The memorial service was well attended and was a meaningful presentation in spite of the loss of the intended speaker.