Students gathered outside of the Multicultural Center to read poems, songs and stories during the Holocaust Memorial Vigil. | Photo by James McIntosh.

Students, community members recite poetry, short stories, history in front of Multicultural Center

On Thursday, the Hillel Center hosted its annual Holocaust Memorial Vigil at the Multicultural Center in honor of Yom HaShoah, which is also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Although Yom HaShoah falls on May 2 this year, Hillel decided to host the ceremony while classes were still in session so they could share it with the student body.

Director of Jewish Student Life, Michael Schreiber, said that the event went well and that Hillel was pleased to be able to put it on this semester.

“We wanted to have it during the school year so that we were able to share this holiday with the student population on campus,” Schreiber said.

Schreiber said that they had a good combination of students and community members who attended the event, as well as a nice group of people who joined when they saw what they were doing. In addition to students and community members, members of the Gender and Sexuality Center, Sigma Alpha Mu, Alpha Epsilon Pi, the FOCUS missionary on campus and the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies attended the vigil.

Along with campus groups and organizations, members of Hillel read a script at the ceremony. This included a combination of facts, history, art, poetry, short stories, songs and quotes from notable figures of the time.

“We had a prepared script we had arranged with some of our students at Hillel kind of led by Elysha Ravitch, a student leader here,” Schreiber said.

To represent the lives lost and the different social groups affected by the Holocaust, Hillel set up a flag vigil outside of the Multicultural Center and alongside the Hammerschlag Mall with different colors representing the different groups and the number of people affected.

Hillel also set a vase filled with yellow flowers on a table to represent the lives of the lost and had a physical display of yahrzeit candles, a traditional Jewish candle lit on the anniversary of a death.

“It’s really about bringing an awareness to it and tieing in the tragedies of the past to current events and to certain things we are seeing in the news today and really tieing in an action to it and getting these groups of people together to commemorate tis holiday and to work together to start that conversation,” Schreiber said. “ It has been really meaningful.”

Emily Waldman, a sophomore who helped with the program and making the script, also spoke on the importance of the memorial.

“It is important we remember events such as this and learn from our past so we don’t make the same mistakes again,” Waldman said.

In honor of celebrating Yom HaShoah and Israel Independence Day early, Hillel held programming throughout the entire week. These events included Israeli cooking shows, Shabbat dinner and a Jewish education class on Zionism. Along with this, Hillel also held a screening of  “The Fence Between Us”, a film made by a spring 2018 film production class by Professor Rob Cohen, a multimedia formatted film about the Holocaust.

“It did a really good job of highlighting genocide education and holocaust education,” Schreiber said. “It was really necessary so we were able to show that film and have a panel with the students who made it, Professor Cohen, and students who were featured in the film as well including survivors and staff on campus.”