When many Jews think of the number six million, the victims of the Holocaust come to their minds. However, this number can also refer to the amount of steps that South Floridians of various ages took on a recent Sunday morning during the third annual “Six Million Steps to Holocaust Awareness” walk.
This walk, which took place at the Coral Springs Sportsplex Track, brought the community together with the intention of heightening the awareness of the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust as participants walked six million steps in the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Shoah. All proceeds benefit the Broward County March of the Living Youth Scholarship Fund.
This walk is an idea that was initiated a few years ago by Hebrew school students of Temple Beth Torah Sha’aray Tzedek in Tamarac and has turned into an annual-wide community supported educational program.
Ronit Goldstein, Hebrew school director at Temple Beth Torah Sha’aray Tzedek, noted there were approximately 300-350 participants at this year’s walk. She thanked everyone for coming and noted there were more participants than last year and that new synagogues also participated this year.
“The community is more involved and the community is more engaged,” Goldstein said. “There’s more awareness and hopefully we will increase involvement for next year as well.”
Participating organizations for this year’s walk included Temple Beth Torah Sha’aray Tzedek, Temple Beth Am in Margate, Temple Dor Dorim in Weston, Temple Solel in Hollywood, the Jewish Federation of Broward County, Orloff Central Agency for Jewish Education and The Jewish Agency for Israel. This year’s program took place both in Coral Springs and Nesher, Israel at the same time.
Amir Watynski, president of Temple Beth Torah Sha’aray Tzedek, said during the walk, “This is a very important community event and we have to show that we will never let it [Holocaust] happen again.”
“For personal reasons, my grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust, so as I’m walking I have them in mind,” Watynski continued.
Michael Balaban, the president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Broward County, said, “More importantly than just the steps that are taken are the names that are posted around.”
“Putting a name and a physical face to the individuals who perished is vital,” he continued. “These kids are part of the last generation that’s likely going to know a survivor so this is critical for them.”
Rick Pagliughi of Tamarac walked while holding an Israeli flag on behalf of a child who died in Auschwitz in 1944 for the reasons of “Never forget” and “Never again.”
“You just can’t forget a situation like this where six million people were murdered just because of ancestry and heritage and you should never let something like that happen again, because when hatred rears its ugly head, you take a stand,” he said. “You don’t stand back and you don’t pretend it doesn’t happen.”
Joan Waldman and Marilynn Klaiman, who both live in Tamarac, walked in honor of their late Holocaust survivor husbands during the event. They felt their late husbands would be pleased with what they and the other participants are doing.
Teenagers were also interviewed during the walk.
Rachel Sandhouse, 17, of Coral Springs, said, “I think that it’s really important to know about the Holocaust and be aware of it and help support all the people who went through it.”
“My family didn’t go through this but I’ve been learning about it since I was a little kid,” she continued.
Zoe Hackshaw, 17, of Coral Springs, described the walk as a “really worthwhile experience.”
Hackshaw was joined by her friend and Ronit Goldstein’s 18-year-old daughter Noga Goldstein, who said, “I love this walk because it’s a way we can all come together and support something that’s really important to all of us.”
“We can all walk around and hang out so it’s also a fun experience that everyone should be able to do,” she continued.