Once upon a dark time, in 1943, a tree began to grow in a concentration camp. Legend has it the maple sapling that appeared in the midst of the grim Theresienstadt camp was smuggled in by a volunteer teacher, and cared for by the children with their meager water rations. Nearly all of the 15,000 children of Theresienstadt perished. But the tree grew into a towering maple, and through the years visitors retained this great symbol of life and hope by taking its seedlings and saplings for replanting all over the world. Incredibly, one of those saplings from the Tree that Survived the Holocaust now lives right in our very own community — at the heart of the newly-unveiled Holocaust Memorial Plaza in Center City.

On Sunday, April 28th you can see the tree, and pay homage to the children of Theresienstadt, at Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation’s 55th annual Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony. “During this terrible time, a teacher was trying to bring more light into the world,” marvels committee member Marc Prine. “The fact that we in Philadelphia have a piece of this tree is just remarkable.” He adds that our community has even more remarkable living evidence of the Holocaust: our many local survivors, some of whom will be in attendance at the ceremony. “This event is so important in terms of educating the public,” adds Marc, whose grandfather was a survivor. “By raising awareness right in the middle of the city — where everyone, Jewish or non-Jewish — can see, we are keeping that memory alive and making sure it will never be forgotten.”

For Jewish Federation’s oldest and largest annual tradition, Greater Philadelphia comes together each year to commemorate the six million Jews who perished and to honor our living survivors. This year, the program will also include performances by the Keystone State Boychoir — who visited Theresienstadt in 2017 — and NASHIRAH, the Jewish Chorale of Greater Philadelphia, who will sing Yiddish selections that were sung in the ghettos for inspiration. And of course, there’ll be the tree, flourishing in the heart of our city.

The Jewish Federation’s Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony, “From the Twig a Tree Will Grow,” will take place on Sunday, April 28, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. at the intersection of 16th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. For more information contact brazin@jewishphilly.org or 215.832.0536. For more information about our Holocaust programming and educational resources, click here.