HUC-JIR Cincinnati Campus Commemorates the 83rd Anniversary of Kristallnacht

HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati campus will commemorate the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht at a Memorial Service this Wednesday, November 10 at 9:45 am ET, led by Rabbi Jonathan Hecht, Ph.D. ’87, Dean, HUC/Cincinnati, and Cantor Yvon Shore ’95, Director of Liturgical Arts, HUC/Cincinnati.

On the night of November 9, 1938, violent anti-Jewish demonstrations broke out across Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. Over the next 48 hours, violent mobs, spurred by antisemitic exhortations from Nazi officials, destroyed hundreds of synagogues. Acting on orders from Gestapo headquarters, police officers and firefighters did nothing to prevent the destruction. Approximately 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses, homes, and schools were plundered, and 91 Jews were murdered. 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Nazi officials immediately claimed that the Jews themselves were to blame for the riots, and a fine of one billion reichsmarks (about $400 million at 1938 rates) was imposed on the German Jewish community. The Nazis came to call the event Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night,” or, “The Night of Broken Glass”), referring to the thousands of shattered windows that littered the streets afterwards. Kristallnacht was a turning point in the history of the Third Reich, marking the shift from antisemitic rhetoric and legislation to the violent, aggressive anti-Jewish measures that would culminate with the Holocaust.

The service will be held in front of the wooden ark created by Rabbi Shmuel Polin ’21 for his senior capstone project. Completed in the Spring of 2021, Rabbi Polin replicated a beautiful wooden ark from a synagogue in Sidra, Poland, that was destroyed by the Nazis. He studied wooden arks of Eastern Europe that frequently adorned many synagogues in pre-Holocaust Poland and Eastern Europe. It is currently on display in Mayerson Hall as part of a Skirball Museum exhibition. Learn more about this project by watching the HUC Connect session, Opening the Ark: Bringing a Lost Polish Synagogue to Life.

The Kristallnacht service will include quotes from sermons delivered by rabbis in the US, Canada, England, and Germany in the weeks just before and just after Kristallnacht, in 1938 and 1939. These quotes are taken from Rabbi Marc Saperstein ’72’s book, Agony in the Pulpit, published by HUC Press.

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