As a way of remembering and recognizing Yom HaShoah, or Devastation and Heroism Day for the Holocaust, students and faculty gathered on campus and shared experiences. The event was organized by Professors Deborah Weiss and David Levine last week in Engleman Hall.
According to Levine, professor of art history, Yom HaShoah marks the solemn day which is the birth of independent Jewish people. It celebrates the departure of ancient Israel from Egypt.
“The holiday also recalls every act of genocide in this century, and in the last, such as Armenia,” Levine said.
People on this campus observe this holiday, Levine said, to call attention and renew determination to speak out against injustice and it is in that spirit that the day is marked on the SCSU campus.
Marking the holiday with presentation and discussions, Weiss, who teaches communications, said her mother was a Holocaust survivor and told the story of how her mother became a citizen of the United States.
Weiss said her mother was married in the city hall of her hometown and the marriage was arranged as a way to get out of the county.
“Her parents,” Weiss said, “saw the couple really loved each other and allowed them to be husband and wife.”
Weiss said her mother’s mother insisted she must go out of the county and after a month in transit, her mother arrived in New York at the age of 19.
“When the war was over, there was no family to go back to,” Weiss said. “My mother then became a realist and had to move on with life.”
Weiss said, “My mother recognized this America was the best country in the world, and that’s when she became an American.”
After taking a course on writing memoirs at the age of 80, Weiss said her Mother wrote a book centered around her growing up and around the Holocaust.
Levine told the audience of how people are losing the memory of the event and said bits and pieces of the memory of the Holocaust are falling away. As time goes on, he said, survivors are disappearing and it will be hard in the future to replace it.
“It was not that long ago when at least several faculty members [who were survivors] taught at Southern,” Levine said.
Professor Lucy Weinstein, who Levine said taught art history, was 12 years old living in Germany when she was forced into hiding and had to escape to Belgium where she lived in a convent.
Soon after, Levine said Weinstein had to go back to Germany to get a visa to permanently leave
Germany and then came to the United States.
“While she was here,” Levine said, “I worked with her for several years, and it was right there every single day, which is probably why I stayed a faculty member here at Southern, and it had a remarkable effect on me.”
Shaina Gamache, a sophomore majoring in psychology, and president of Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus, said the presentation and discussions were really moving and was happy with the turnout.
“It is nice to learn about people who knew survivors of the Holocaust,” Gamache said.
In her first year acting as the club’s president, Gamache said she plans to be part of the club for the rest of her time at Southern.
In regards of the professors who set up the event, Gamache said, “they would know more about it than students, so it is important to take the time to teach students about those times.”