Dan Oryan, Israel’s Ambassador to North Macedonia, has visited ORT’s Kfar Silver Youth Village as part of an international Chanukah campaign to raise awareness of the impact of the Holocaust on North Macedonian Jewry.
The community, which had numbered around 8,000 people before the Second World War, was almost completely destroyed during the Shoah.
The ‘1,000 Chanukah Candles of Remembrance’ campaign was initiated by Ambassador Oryan and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with the Bitola/Monastir Jewish Community Heritage Foundation and the Center for Jewish Impact – and supported by World ORT. It called on people around the world to light the menorah on the eighth night of Chanukah – last night – in dedication to the Jewish community of North Macedonia.
Ambassador Oryan visited Kfar Silver to light Chanukah candles on Sunday and met village staff and Naale students who have moved to Israel without their parents. Many have not seen their families all year due to Covid.
Ambassador Oryan said: “It was a real pleasure visiting Kfar Silver and meeting the youngsters studying and working in the village. I had the opportunity to talk to them about the special relations Israel has with North Macedonia and to invite them to join and light the menorah in memory of the community that was lost during the Holocaust. I shared with them part of the tragic story of the Macedonian Jews.”
Amos Gofer, CEO of Kfar Silver Youth Village, expressed his appreciation for the Ambassador’s visit and said: “The visit was exciting and very important. The Holocaust in North Macedonia is not discussed enough and it was important for me to share this important part of history with our Naale students.”
Supporters of the campaign across the ORT network included Amelie Esquenazi, World ORT Networking Coordinator for Latin America, whose grandparents were originally from Skopje – part of modern-day North Macedonia.
She lit eight candles on the Menorah surrounded by her children and grandchildren in memory of her lost family. Amelie’s grandparents and their young son – her father – left Macedonia for Mexico in the 1920s, but their remaining family all perished during the Shoah.
Amelie explained that after her grandparents and father left, “the Nazis came one day to the Jewish quarter where the community lived. They knocked on my family’s house and when they opened the door, my great-grandmother had a sudden heart attack and died. They took everyone… a whole family exterminated.
“My grandfather and my father were always hard-working, honorable people. I grew up very close to my grandfather and when I asked him as a child about his family, he remained silent, with a lost look and he answered: ‘The Germans took them away’.
“Years passed and after my father’s death, I decided to go to Yad Vashem for a course to find those roots that seemed lost. I needed to make sense of those who died. I needed to be able to say Kaddish for them.”
After continuing her research into her family’s history, Amelie helped create a Holocaust museum in Mexico in memory of those who were killed.
Mr Oryan’s visit also marked the opening of a new fitness and martial arts center at Kfar Silver.
The center includes an advanced and fully-equipped martial arts room and a state-of-the-art gym. A new outdoor fitness complex is also scheduled to open in the next few months, funded by a donation recruited by the school’s Parents Committee.
Mr Gofer said: “Soon we will have an incredible 450 square-meter sports complex, unmatched by any other in the southern region. I chose to establish this complex in order to align with the village’s vision for excellence in sports.
“This complex will constitute the perfect base for a new sports study course that will open on September 1, 2021. I am convinced that this complex, together with the athletics stadium that will be built and the sports hall that will be renovated, will provide a comprehensive solution for sports culture and fitness for everyone in the village and in the entire southern region of Israel.”
Mr Oryan said during his visit he had seen “the amazing work done in the village, making a strong and meaningful connection to the country. I was also happy to challenge the youngsters and compete in a hand-stand competition after participating in the opening ceremony of the new sports center in the village”.