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Holocaust Recalled in Time of Turmoil

April 15, 2002|KURT STREETER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a somber and reflective occasion at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles on Sunday as a standing-room crowd gathered to remember the horrors of the past during a time of tumult in Israel.

Holocaust Remembrance Day was marked at this Westside synagogue by an observance featuring a string of influential speakers, including former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, Mayor James K. Hahn and Gov. Gray Davis.

The temple shook with standing ovations when speakers drew parallels between the Holocaust and the current struggles in the Middle East.

"We must remember the Holocaust in all its barbaric details," Davis said. "We must not shrink from it, and we must summon up the outrage to prevent history from repeating itself."

Davis said Americans and Israelis share a bond of common ideals, and he declared his "support for the state of Israel."

Hahn said this year's event was more important than ever, not only because it occurred during a backdrop of conflict but also because he was worried that violence against Jews was on the rise.

"We see anti-Semitism very strong again in Europe ... and even right here in Los Angeles," said Hahn, noting that police are investigating a recent assault against Jewish students. It's "so important that we come together to remember how awful the Holocaust was. The problem still continues."

The day had a particularly deep resonance for the many Holocaust survivors among the crowd of roughly 2,000. They spoke of the pain conjured up by recent events.

"This is a most difficult time," said Samuel Goetz, a 73-year-old who was liberated from a Nazi concentration camp when he was 16. "We are remembering the struggles we have gone through, and that is painful enough. But we are also looking for reason for optimism with what is happening in Israel, and that is a difficult thing to find these days."

The event took place under extremely tight security, with dozens of Los Angeles police restricting access to the area surrounding the temple, located on Wilshire Boulevard. The atmosphere was tense. Concrete barriers lined the streets and metal detectors were used on those entering the event.

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