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Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site to commemorate milestone

DU’s Center for Judaic Studies and Holocaust Awareness Institute will host a ceremony to mark the completion of the first phase of the Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site.

The event, which is free, will be held at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at the site, which is located at the base of Buchtel Tower, just west of Margery Reed Hall. 

Attendees will hear from campus and community leaders and students and will have a chance to participate in a special “prayer of renewal” with local Holocaust survivors.

“This project is less about a new space than it is about the things that take place on our campus in the spirit of this new space,” says Sarah Pessin, director of the Center for Judaic Studies.

The site’s design is a collaboration between University Architect Mark Rodgers and noted landscape architect Spencer Nickel of Five Design.

Phase I features a central stone bench that is shaped like the Hebrew word, “chai,” which translates to “life” in Hebrew. The bench radiates out to an amphitheater of natural stone benches.

Phase II, which is still under construction, will feature metal lattice partitions that suggest the shattered windows of Kristallnacht. The partitions also will spell out the Hebrew word “hineni,” which translates to “Here I am,” a Jewish phrase in post-Holocaust philosophy that signifies an ethical call to action.

“Remembering the Holocaust should not simply be a passive act,” Pessin says. “When we say, ‘Never Again,’ we commit ourselves to repairing the world through learning, intercultural dialogue and social justice initiatives. These are key parts of what it means to remember the Holocaust.”

The memorial is linked to an endowed chair of Holocaust studies and will be home to performances, lectures, readings and vigils that advance humanitarian causes, foster intercultural dialogue and incubate empathy and public good works.  

“The site will be a public square for social-consciousness raising,” Pessin says.

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