Interfaith Community Observes Holocaust Memorial Day

 

This is the twenty-fifth year that residents of Westmoreland County will come together to remember the victims of Nazism by observing Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. There will be a community-wide memorial service at Congregation Emanu-El Israel, 222 N. Main Street in Greensburg beginning at 2:00 PM on Sunday, April 7th. Following the service, we will move downstairs to the social hall where the film, “Ahead of Time” will be shown. “Ahead of Time” is a feature-length documentary film on the remarkable life of Ruth Gruber. Born in Brooklyn in 1911, Ruth became the youngest PhD in the world at age 20. Ruth became a foreign correspondent and photojournalist at age 24. As a student in Germany in 1931, she attended a Hitler rally observing first-hand the rising tide of Nazism.

In 1935, the New York Herald Tribune asked her to write a series about women under communism and fascism. She traveled across Europe to the far reaches of Siberia to cover the story. Harold Ickes, President Roosevelt's secretary of the interior, read Gruber's writings and asked her to study the prospects of G.I.'s homesteading in Alaska after World War II. Gruber's life-defining moment came in 1944, when Ickes asked her to take on another special mission: secretly escorting a group of 1,000 Jewish refugees from Italy to America.

Despite the grim news coming out of Europe throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s, Congress steadfastly refused to lift the quota on Jewish immigration to the United States from Eastern Europe. Finally acting by executive authority, President Roosevelt permitted a group of 1,000 Jewish refugees in Naples to "visit" America. The refugees were to be "guests" of the President and lodged at Fort Ontario, a decommissioned army training base near Oswego, in northern New York. Ickes asked Gruber to travel to Italy secretly to meet and escort the refugees.

As a journalist, she accompanied leaders to the Middle East where they studied the problems of displaced persons and Palestine. Ruth covered the Nuremberg trials in 1946 and her photos of the ship Exodus in 1947 were published in Life Magazine and around the world.

The film’s executive producer, Patti Askwith Kenner is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.

The Yom HaShoah observance is jointly sponsored by the Westmoreland Jewish Community Council of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Greensburg Ministerium, the Greater Latrobe Ministerial Association, the National Catholic Center of Holocaust Education of Seton Hill University, Congregation Emanu-El Israel (Greensburg) and Beth Israel Synagogue (Latrobe). The service and film are open and free of charge to the community. For more information call 724-834-0560.

 

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