Beckley Community Honors Holocaust Victims

By Lora Owston

Temple Beth El will honor Holocaust victims with its 27th annual Remembrance Day service at WVU Tech on April 15.

Holocaust Remembrance Day, also known as Yom HaShoah, is dedicated to memorializing the 6 million Jews that perished during the Holocaust. Although Yom HaShoah is officially recognized this year on April 12, the Beckley gathering is traditionally held on the following Sunday to allow for increased attendance.

The service will remember the lives of those lost in the Holocaust and other genocides, but will also place a special emphasis on the life of Max Lewin, Beckley’s only Holocaust survivor. A never-before published interview with Lewin detailing his experiences of the Holocaust will be showcased during the service. The interview was originally recorded in 1996 for a television program by Mountain State University. However, Lewin later requested that the video never be shown during his lifetime.

“In the interview, you can see Max’s voice get broken at times; he gets more emotional,” said Temple Beth El secretary Dr. Joe Golden. “You need to empathize with that because he’s remembering the horrors that he and his family experienced and what he saw around him.”

Lewin was the only Holocaust survivor from his hometown of Lipniszki, Poland and came to the city of Beckley in 1946 to live with his brother Harry. Lewin was a local businessman in Beckley, having owned several businesses including Home Modernization, Inc. and, following his brother’s death, Harry’s Men’s Shop. Lewin passed away on August 24, 2002.

Although Lewin published his memoirs in 1968 in Yiddish, Beckley residents were unaware of the extent of his suffering until he revealed it to Temple Beth El members in 1990. This revelation led to the first Beckley Holocaust Remembrance Day service at Temple Beth El on April 14, 1991. After the dedication of the Lewin Family Bell Tower in 1996, subsequent services were moved to what is now the campus of West Virginia University Institute of Technology.

“The WVU Tech community is honored and humbled to be a part of this longstanding tradition,” said campus president Carolyn Long. “Our city – and indeed, our campus – is part of a tapestry of lives from all parts of the world, from many cultures and from many faiths…This event is so important because it reminds us that our communities cannot flourish when that light goes out.”

In addition to the video, the service will include a candle lighting ceremony, a reading of the Lewin family’s names, the story of Max Lewin, and other inspirational recitations and prayers.

Beckley’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day service will take place this year on Sunday, April 15 at 1 p.m. in West Virginia University Institute of Technology’s Carter Hall.

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