Holocaust forum renews hope in future

Originally appeared in Silent News, June 2001.

There were four deaf survivors of the Holocaust present at the “Remembering Deaf Persons in the Holocaust” forum, held in New York City on April 26. Coordinated by Dr. Oscar Cohen, the retiring superintendent of the Lexington School for the Deaf, the standing-room-only forum of over 300 attendees was filled with hope, remembrance and inspiration.

The forum opened with John Schuchman, a professor of history at Gallaudet University and author of two books, describing the history of how deaf Jews were treated in Nazi Germany. Schuchman, who is a child of deaf adults, showed various photographs, including one of a deaf school in Berlin that some of the survivors in attendance at the forum had been schooled at, and one of groups of Jews that were supportive of the Nazi movement.

After Schuchman’s detailed and moving account of the historical perspective of Berlin Jews, Rabbi Irving Greenberg, president of Jewish Life Network and chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, spoke about ethnical and moral implications of dehumanizing or diminishing any group of people. Rabbi Greenberg, who is hearing, likened the struggles of deaf people to the struggles of Jewish dignity and said that nobody deserved to have their dignity undermined, regardless of who they were.

Upon the conclusion of the inspirational speech by Rabbi Greenberg, the student body president of Lexington, Jason Wagner, thanked the survivors for their presence. “We will remember,” he said, inviting Lexington students and the survivors to come together to light candles in remembrance of the Holocaust. After the inspiring speeches, attendees were treated to refreshments and social time.

According to Cohen, Lexington’s ties to the Jewish community began in the 1860s, when Isaac and Hannah Rosenfeld, a German Jewish family, established the school for their deaf daughter Carrie.

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