On Sunday, Nov. 12, to mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht (Nov. 9-10, 1938), the congregation of Temple Emanuel of Great Neck will dedicate a memorial to the one and one-half million children who died in the Holocaust. All members of the community are invited to participate in the dedication ceremony that will take place at 3 p.m. on the synagogueís west lawn. A service of commemoration offered by Rabbi Robert S. Widom, Rabbi Louis Stein, Cantor Elliot Z. Levine and the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble, will follow in the synagogueís sanctuary.
ìA work in progress,î the Holocaust memorial for Temple Emanuel, before it was cast in bronze.
The monument, entitled ìHolocaust Memorial: The Children,î is the work of sculptor Michael Alfano and consists of four life-size figures cast in bronze. Three of the figures were inspired by three children in a photograph on the cover of the publication, The Auschwitz Album: The Story of a Transport. In the photograph, assembled among the women and children on the Birkenau arrival platform known as the ìramp,î a girl of about four and two boys who might be seven and ten have just disembarked from the transport train that brought them to the concentration camp from a relocation ghetto in Hungary. The fourth child in the memorial sculpture is a girl of modern times; she extends one hand towards the victims and with the other, raises a candle to the future with its hope for something better. A visitor to the memorial will be able to stand between the children of the Holocaust and the modern day child of hope, clasp their hands and become a link connecting the past to a future in which such horrific acts will be unthinkable.
In the spring of 2005, when plans for Temple Emanuelís annual Holocaust service of remembrance were under way, a synagogue committee led by Rabbis Widom and Stein, cognizant of the need for more than just a memorial but a memorial with a message, commissioned the young and talented Alfano to create a work that would be of lasting significance not only to a mature community but, in particular, to the youth of the congregation. It was essential to reach, and move, those most chronologically distant from the Nazi era, while a generation of survivors could still tell their stories firsthand. With this in mind, director of education, Fred Axelrod, invited congregant (and survivor), Ruth Keller, to speak to Emanuelís fourth-, fifth-, sixth-and seventh-grade students. Tailoring her remarks to each age group, intending to inform but not traumatize, she told the story of her Vienna childhood, and of the night in 1938, which came to be known as Kristallnacht, when her father was arrested. The children listened with rapt attention and soon after, the entire religious school population undertook the collection of one and one-half million pennies, symbolic of the one and one-half million children who perished. In addition, member families made their own substantial contributions to help provide the wherewithal to fund the memorial. It was a ìsynagogueî project in every sense of the word.
Michael Alfano was recommended to the committee by Rabbi Stein, who had seen and admired his work. In fact, Michael had been sculpting figures, monuments and philosophical pieces for nearly fifteen years. He studied at the Art Students League of New York, concentrating on life-size sculpture and anatomy, and at Boston University. His formal education was augmented by internships with several prominent sculptors. Michael regularly earns awards at Long Island art shows, and his sculptures can be seen in the galleries of Provincetown, Newbury Street, the Berkshires and Fifth Avenue. He has been commissioned by several organizations of note to create public monuments and permanent installations. Known as ìthe sculptor with a conscience,î the mission of his art is to evoke in his viewers a deeper understanding of life through his portrayal of its everyday aspects. Michael is a native of Levittown, Long Island; he presently works and lives in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.
Congressman Gary Ackerman, State Senator Michael Balboni, County Executive Tom Suozzi, Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, Kings Point Mayor Michael Kalnick, and members of the Great Neck clergy are among the special guests who are invited to participate in the dedication ceremony.
Temple Emanuel of Great Neck is located at 150 Hicks Lane. For further information, please call 482- 5701.