In times like these, why cancel a holocaust event barbara aiello the blogs

Mr. Genovese says that “As an Italian-American and a Catholic I felt it was important to stand in solidarity with the United Nations to observe the International Holocaust Memorial Day that commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp on January 27, 1945. That’s why I came up with the idea to offer an interfaith event to give international diplomats the opportunity to honor Holocaust survivors.”

Thanks to Mr. Genovese’s perseverance and organizational skills the Tampa, Florida community had the chance to experience this unique event. Each year, for six years, on or near January 27, hundreds of participants of all faiths joined together in a beautiful memorial, the highlight of which was the moving candle lighting ceremony where survivors were escorted by members of the international diplomatic corps.

“Honestly, I couldn’t believe it was happening,” says Janine L., a child survivor who participated in the Tampa events that Vincent Genovese organized. “I remember when I was a little eight year old Jewish girl clutching my father’s hands as we escaped from Paris. And now, I’m walking with a French diplomat who wants to light a Holocaust memorial candle with me. I was so touched by his kindness and so grateful to be recognized as a survivor by the country that had abandoned me.”

Jewish agencies throughout Philadelphia, including the Jewish Family and Children Services, several synagogues, the Holocaust Awareness Museum, along with individual rabbis and cantors were impressed. They were enthusiastic about working with Mr. Genovese and the Consular Corps.

What happened? Mr. Genovese says that part of the AJC’s concerns centered on the Yom HaShoah event that they sponsor each spring. Mr. Genovese tried to explain that his commemoration is hardly in competition with Yom HaShoah, especially since it is held in January in tandem with the International Holocaust Memorial Day.

“We invite Consul Generals from European countries,” Mr. Genovese explains, and as he becomes quite emotional when he recalls previous gatherings where these European representatives walk hand in hand with survivors and together they light a candle. “It’s a moment of healing between a survivor and a representative of a country that was part of the Holocaust – a beautiful moment where respect is restored.”

Living and working in Israel has contributed greatly to Mr. Genovese’s passion to do what he can to eradicate anti-Semitism. He says, “While I lived in Israel, I committed to myself and to my Israeli friends that I would do my best to assist in the fight against anti-Semitism which has been alive for centuries and from currents incidents it is likely to continue.”

In Tampa, Florida in 2012 when he was appointed as Consular Correspondent of Italy, Mr. Genovese understood how important a vehicle the Consular Corps could be in engaging the interfaith community in the struggle against anti-Semitism. “Consuls generally enjoy the respect and the attention of their own communities, and engaging them in a Holocaust commemoration adds another level of dignity to these events, emphasizing that Europe must never forget.”