Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger (l.) and Dr. Michael Lozman hold up the deed for the two-acre parcel of land the Diocese of Albany and Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery gifted to the Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial. (Mike Matvey photo)
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger (l.) and Dr. Michael Lozman hold up the deed for the two-acre parcel of land the Diocese of Albany and Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery gifted to the Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial. (Mike Matvey photo)

With anti-Semitism on the rise in the United States and beyond, the importance of the future Capital District Holocaust Memorial can’t be overstated. 

And it was the interfaith friendship between Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany and Dr. Michael Lozman that brought the memorial one step closer to reality on Aug. 20. The Bishop, through Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Niskayuna, gifted a two-acre parcel of property for the future site of the memorial with Bishop Scharfenberger signing over the deed to Lozman, who is the president and founder of the memorial, in a ceremony held at the Pastoral Center in Albany.

“(The memorial) is all about education, it is all about prayer and reverence,” Bishop Scharfenberger said. “It is all about passing on to, particularly our young people, the story that is behind this and, as we all know, as it has been often been said, ‘Whoever does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it.’

“And it is extremely important that the lesson not be lost in what can happen in a very developed, artistic and sophisticated nation. How people can close their eyes to something happening right in their midst, in their backyard.”

In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League reported a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in the four years the group has been tracking them. According to its report, the ADL detailed 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents last year, a 12 percent rise from 2018 (1,879).

“It is unfortunate that we are seeing a rise not only in anti-Semitism but a rise in all the things we are fighting against,” Lozman said. “A rise in hatred, bigotry, prejudice and it is a sad reflection of our times. How do we fight that? We fight that through education. We fight that through bringing this message to the public through this memorial and other memorials. This is how we fight this; education is the key. We need to educate the children so they understand their history, so as the Bishop mentioned, it is not repeated.”

The memorial, which Lozman estimated will cost $4.2 million, will be built on land next to Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery on Route 7. The memorial, which was first proposed by Lozman in 2017, had been the subject of numerous forums and public hearings as well as a major design change, got final approval from the Niskayuna Planning Board in February. The memorial — now in the fundraising stage and expected to be built in 2023 — will consist of walls arranged in the shape of the Star of David, and visitors “will be guided into the interior space that is enclosed by six leaning towers centered on a pedestal containing representations of the personal objects that remained after the millions were killed,” a press release stated. The space is designed for contemplation and visitors will leave through a gate containing the message “Never Again.”

Lozman first approached Bishop Scharfenberger about the memorial three years ago and he said, “the sum total of the Bishop’s comment was ‘How can I help you?’ That is extraordinary. That just shows you the nature of the man and what a fantastic person that he is.”

The many meetings between the two in the years that followed culminated last week in the transfer of the deed.

“It is a celebration that two religions have come together for a common purpose and that purpose is for the betterment and improvement of our society and that is what is so extraordinary about it,” Lozman said. “We have the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish community together on a project of such value. And that is an extraordinary moment.”

Father James Kane, the director of the diocesan Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, sees the memorial as a continuation of the Palm Sunday Service in 1986 led by then-Albany Bishop Howard J. Hubbard and Rabbi Martin Silverman. The reconciliation service between Catholics and Jews at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany was believed to be the first such service in the world.

“(The memorial) I see as the next logical step from that event, still a Jew and a Christian in embrace,” said Father Kane, referencing the necklace he wore to the press conference that was a miniature of the sculpture “Portal” by Bob Blood.
And it could not be possible without this unprecedented interfaith partnership. Bishop Scharfenberger, whose maternal grandmother was Jewish and was named as a consultor to the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews in July of 2019, called the cooperation ‘momentous.’

“So many of these stories are individual stories,” Bishop said, “and one of the things a memorial gives the opportunity to do though is to see this not only as a historical event but something that can happen again and again and again unless we promote the dignity of every single human person regardless of race, religion or any other category human beings put on (one another).

“It is a momentous time not only in our region but actually in the United States and the country. I am so proud to be in Albany, to be the Bishop of Albany, and to be a part of this right now as we always will.”