New York City Reflection #2: A Profound Surprise

Planning for our recent trip to New York City to attend the World Baseball Classic Qualifier last week drove me crazy! Having not really been to New York before (I explain the “not really” here, I found it very difficult to figure out where to stay, how to get around, etc. You may think I am indeed crazy to learn that I booked four different hotels (is that legal?)! Part of the difficulty is that there really isn’t much choice in the Coney Island area, where the tournament was. We settled on the last of the four, the Best Western Brooklyn Bay. We found through some locals that there is no such thing as “Brooklyn Bay”, but for some reason the hotel didn’t want to use the real name: “Sheepshead Bay.”

As it turned out the location worked well for us. We took the bus to the baseball stadium each day, fully enjoying our walk to the bus stop each way. We arrived at the hotel Thursday afternoon, but didn’t have a chance to check out Sheepshead Bay until Saturday morning. It’s very touristy-looking with its many fishing piers and restaurants. But we didn’t yet know the incredibly moving experience we were soon to have.

A fishing boat at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY

A fishing boat at the pier Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY

I had told Robin about this delightful find after my morning walk. And so as I had a rest, she went off on her own to explore the area. Upon returning, she told me she went further than I did and discovered a Holocaust memorial. So we went back out together to take a closer look.

At the west edge of the bay, a small park has been transformed into “Holocaust Memorial Park” and dedicated by New York City mayor Giuliani in 1997. This spot was chosen because of the many Holocaust survivors who settled this area after the Second World War.

We were both intensely struck by the simplicity and significance of the memorial. A symbolic tower, resembling a smokestack, is surrounded by the names of the countries affected by the Holocaust and sits in the center between two grassy areas each filled with granite markers. On most of the markers are a wide variety of inscriptions, honoring individuals and communities who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. There are also relevant quotes, poems, and so on to help visitors reflect.

As I walked among the markers, I was also struck with a sense of being in the right place at the right time. After all the frustration and confusion over figuring out the details of this trip, we knew God had led us here. With the Jewish High Holidays approaching, it was fitting that we pay our respects to those among our people who fell victim to this great tragedy.

After sitting silently for a time, we recited the Mourner’s Kaddish together. The Mourner’s Kaddish is an ancient prayer recited in Aramaic, the language of Yeshua, not as a prayer for the dead, but an expression of honor to God, who in the midst of chaos and suffering remains in control and worthy of honor and worship. Here is an English translation (from

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world
which He has created according to His will.

May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days,
and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon;
and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored,
adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He,
beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that
are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights,
may He create peace for us and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.

I hope the following photo gallery captures some of the impact of what we experienced. You should be able to read the inscriptions.

Holocaust Memorial Park Signage

Main signage. For a closer look at the text see next image.

Explanation of Holocaust Memorial Park

Closer look at the text.

Tower (smokestack) of remembrance - centerpiece of the memorial.

Tower (smokestack) of remembrance – centerpiece of the memorial.

Robin walking among the pillars to the one side of the tower.

Robin walking among the markers to the one side of the tower.

Famous saying by Rev. Martin Niemöller

Famous saying by Rev. Martin Niemöller

A sampling of granite markers

A sampling of granite markers (an enlargement of the one in the right-bottom corner follows)

A summary of the life of Anne Frank, whose diary survived the Holocaust

A summary of the life of Anne Frank, whose diary survived the Holocaust

In memory of the Jewish communities of Belarus and Moldova

One of the markers in memory of countries significantly effected by the Nazi horrors. As far as I know all our grandparents came from either Belarus or neighboring Lithuania. Robin’s father and his family left Lithuania in the nick of time in 1936. Many of their extended family were killed.

In memory of the Jehovah Witnesses

I was extremely touched that the memorial was not exclusively Jewish, but also included other communities that were targeted by Nazi terror, including the Jehovah Witnesses, the disabled, and homosexuals.

An urgent plea to not forget the Holocaust from Elie Wiesel.

An urgent plea to not forget the Holocaust from recently deceased Nobel-laureate Elie Wiesel.

"Are you my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9-10)

“Are you my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9-10)

For more information about this Holocaust memorial, visit the Holocaust Memorial Committee web site.

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