Repeating the stories and forgetting again

Syrian native Aliaa Noha Khaled, standing, shared her story of being a modern-day refugee at a Yom Hashoah event Sunday at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. She is flanked by her daughters and Holocaust survivor Leonard Gordon. Photo by Justin Katz.

Jews across the Washington area marked Yom Hashoah last Sunday with commemorative ceremonies in Maryland and Virginia held by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. At both events, attendees viewed art and artifacts depicting the Holocaust, heard from survivors and took part in discussions about refugees.

At Washington Hebrew Congregation’s Julia Bindeman Suburban Center in Potomac, Rockville resident Marsha Tishler told 400 participants how she and her family fled Nazi-occupied Poland in 1945 when she was 3. The lived in displaced persons camps in Austria that Tishler described as “overcrowded, dismal and dank.”

Marsha Tishler
Photo by Dan Schere

Even after “life took on a sense of normalcy,” Tischler’s parents remained scarred by their ordeal.

“My mother sometimes chased after trams on the streets, certain she had spotted the blond hair of her niece … only to have the face of a stranger turn to her,” she said. “My father thrashed around in his sleep. He was always running from those shooting at him in the dark. Even though we were safe in Italy and later in America, whenever he saw a dense set of trees or bushes he’d say, ‘That’s a good place to hide.’ He was always hiding.”

The refugee’s journey is no easier today, Crannough Jones told the audience. Jones, who escaped the Liberian civil war in 1990, suggested that there is a sad similarity to refugees’ stories.

“There’s a reason they say don’t forget,” she said. Even though we’re repeating these stories, I feel like we’re still forgetting. It’s still happening. Why, I don’t have the answer. In a few years there will be a Syrian kid telling a similar story to ours. The story has been told over and over, but I don’t know why.”

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Information table at the Northern Virginia Jewish Community Center. “We had Nazi graffiti here so we cannot lower our guard to hate speech or anti-Semitism of any kind,” said executive director Jeff Dannick.”
Photo by Justin Katz


Leonard Gordon survived ghettos and concentration camps. He was liberated from a labor camp in 1945.
Photo by Justin Katz
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