Local programs to memorialize Babi Yar, Yom HaShoah

The 35,000 ex-Soviet emigres residing in the Bay Area barely outnumber the Jewish carnage left by Nazis at Babi Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev.

According to official German reports, 33,771 Soviet Jews were machine-gunned to death there in 1941. The Ukrainian ravine soon became a mass grave filled with more than 100,000 bodies.

As Jews around the world prepare this week for Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, many from the local emigre community as well as the greater Jewish community will unite to memorialize this brutal mass slaughter.

The program, "Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of Babi Yar," will take place 7 p.m. Thursday at Congregation Emanu-El, 2 Lake St., S.F.

Sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Holocaust Center of Northern California, this memorial service was planned and publicized with the help of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's Emigre Leadership Institute. For information, call (415) 957-1551.

"Babi Yar is such an important symbol of the Holocaust because it was one of the bloodiest massacres, when such a large number of Jews were killed in such a short amount of time," said Abby Michelson Porth, JCRC special projects coordinator

"It's significant to all of us as a symbol of the Holocaust, but it leaves a particularly deep impression on the hearts of the Russian survivors in our community."

Pnina Levermore, executive director of the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal, agreed. She said that a large fraction of the older emigres in the Bay Area either "lived through World War II or were on the lines of the war against Hitler."

One of those Russian war veterans, Boris Moldavsky, currently assistant president of the San Francisco Association of Russian Veterans of WWII, will be honored during Thursday's program.

Additionally, the Rev. Douglas Huneke of Tiburon's Westminster Presbyterian Church will be honored for his work on behalf of Righteous Gentiles. Lloyd Dade, a San Francisco African-American who liberated concentration camps in Austria while serving with the U.S. Army, will be honored as well.

Also during the program, two young San Francisco Russian emigres will perform dramatic readings of famous writings on Babi Yar. Anya Tepermeyster, a U.C. Berkeley student who emigrated from Chernovtsy, will be reading an excerpt from Shlomo Aronson's book "The Last Judgment." Vera Lev, a University of San Francisco student who emigrated from Moscow, will read "A Necessary Explanation" by Anatoly Kuznetsov.

The program will also feature performances by the Jewish Folk Chorus and by Cantor Roslyn Barak of Emanu-El, who will sing songs about Babi Yar. San Francisco school children will read their winning essays and poems from the Holocaust-themed Morris Weiss essay contest.

Several other memorial services are set to take place around the Bay Area in honor of Yom HaShoah this week:

In the East Bay, "Redeeming the World: The Dutch Rescuers and their Messages for Us Today " will feature folklorist and writer Mark Klempner at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Congregation B'nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek. Information: (510) 839-2900, ext. 253.

Also in the East Bay, "The Power of Memory" will take place 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Beth Jacob Congregation, 3778 Park Blvd, Oakland. Information: (510) 839-2900, ext. 253.

In the North Bay, a "Community-Wide Yom HaShoah Commemoration" will be held 7 p.m. Thursday at the Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael. The service will feature survivor Sonia Orbuch discussing "Surviving in Hiding" and the Brandeis Hillel Day School choir. Information: (415) 444-8000.

In Sonoma, a program called "Hope" will feature Huneke, Rabbi Jonathan Slater of Congregation Beth Ami, Freddi Bloom of Congregation B'nai Israel and the Vuillaume String Quartet. It will take place 2 p.m. Sunday in Warren Auditorium, Ives Hall, Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. Information: (707) 528-4222.

In the South Bay, "Triumph of the Spirit," featuring author Alicia Appleman-Jurman, will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills. Information: (650) 493-5413.

"My Brother's Keeper? Rescuing Jews in Defiance of Tyranny" will take place Sunday, April 22 at Peninsula Sinai Congregation, 499 Boothbay at Edgewater, Foster City. Programs include a teen workshop at 3:15 p.m., "Moral Courage and Altruism: Lessons Learned from Ordinary People" at 4:30 p.m.; dinner at 6 p.m.; a memorial reading of names at 6:30 p.m. and a service of remembrance at 7 p.m. Information: (650) 493-5413.