The 11th Annual World Reunion of Liepāja Jewry took place in Liepāja last weekend, from July 21 to 23, inviting the descendants of Holocaust survivors to the city. This year, the event was attended by approximately 100 people from USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, Norway and Latvia.
The Reunion started on Thursday night with a special celebratory reception and a symbolic lighting of candles in the traditional menorah. The first candle, dedicated to the six million victims of the Holocaust, was symbolically lit by Sharon Rappaport-Palgi, Ambassador of Israel in Latvia, joined by other special guests of the night. Guests of the city were greeted by Chairman of the City Council Gunārs Ansiņš, founders of the Liepāja Jewish Heritage Foundation Selwyn Haas and Sergei Zaharjin, as well as head of the Foundation, Ilana Ivanova.
On the second day, participants of the Reunion were invited to the City Council to attend a reception with Deputy Chairman of the Council Atis Deksnis, followed by a tour to honor Holocaust victims in Liepāja and the brave citizens of Liepāja and Kurzeme who hid Jews, thus saving them from imminent death. During the tour, the group visited the memorial plaque of the Liepāja Choral Synagogue at Kuršu iela 11/13, the Holocaust Survivors Memorial in Šķēde as well as the memorial site on Roņu iela, next to the lighthouse where the first mass destruction of Liepāja Jews took place. On Friday night, participants were invited to a celebratory dinner accompanied by opera diva soprano Sonora Vaice and a quartet of musicians of the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra, who performed songs in Yiddish and Hebrew.
On Saturday morning, participants joined in a reading of the Torah, and the official portion of the event was concluded by the afternoon conference and panel discussion Staying Human in Inhuman Conditions. Speakers of the conference were director of the Jews in Latvia Museum Ilya Lensky, museum educator, researcher of the Žanis Lipke Memorial Museum and tour guide Maija Meiere-Oša, and Master in History at the Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine Mārtiņš Vesperis.
Among special guests of the weekend was Liepāja-born Marija Bojāra, who currently resides in Israel. Even though Marija was still a child during the war period, she still holds Liepāja in her heart and fond memories, which is evidenced by her excellent knowledge of the Latvian language.
Before World War II, the Jewish community in Liepāja had over seven thousand people. After the war, only 25 survivors remained. There would be even fewer survivors if not for the courageous citizens of Liepāja and surrounding parishes who rescued Jews, risking not only their own lives but those of their families as well.
We wish to thank all participants of the Reunion who honored the families of Holocaust victims with their presence. We wish to express our special gratitude to the organizers of the events – the Liepāja Jewish Heritage Foundation and its leader Ilana Ivanova, and our partners, the Liepāja Jewish Congregation.
The 11th Annual World Reunion of Liepāja Jewry was supported by: The Uniting History Foundation.