April 30, 2009

Hillel Mourns Holocaust But Celebrates Israel’s Day of Independence

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It was a mix of emotions yesterday for the Jewish community, whose members commemorated the deaths of six million Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust and then celebrated Israel’s 61st birthday.
In front of the Straight, participants of Cornell Hillel’s vigil read aloud the names of Holocaust victims in their annual 24-hour reading. The vigil started at 10 a.m. Tuesday and finished yesterday morning.
“To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time. The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children who will be born tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future,” Elie Wisel, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, once wrote. [img_assist|nid=37364|title=Gotcha suckers!|desc=Shane Wax ’10 threw a pie in the face of Assistant Director for Campus Life Denice Cassaro as part of a fundraiser event yesterday afternoon on Ho Plaza.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Through the commemoration on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, participants hoped to embody this spirit by making the Cornell community more aware of the Holocaust and honoring those impacted by the genocide.
Yom HaShoah was established by the Israeli government to remember the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The observance of this year’s Yom HaShoah began last week on April 20.
The victims’ names were read from lists compiled by Yad Vashem — which, translated in English means the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, — which is Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish Holocaust victims. The lists contain only about 3 million names, half of the total number of Holocaust victims.
Yet, 24 hours was simply not enough to read all the 3 million names on the lists; this year’s goal was to read at least 25,000 victims’ names.
Over 40 people participated in the reading in 30-minute shifts throughout the 24-hour period.
Matthew Adelman’s 11, a member of Hillel, helped organize the memorial service as well as the flag exhibit. By remember the Holocaust, Adelman hopes to reinforce the fact that such an atrocity occured. Not only does Adelman see this as a terrible event in Jewish event, but also in the history of humanity as a whole.
“Many people even deny that the Holocaust happened,” Adelman said. “We have to do the best we can in remembering the event so that it never happens again. So we read the names of the victims of the Holocaust and put up flags to raise awareness around the Cornell comunity.”
Judah Bellin ’12, Sun Columnist and member of The Sun’s Editorial Boad, also partook in the memorial, saying that “we have to do the best we can so that something like this never happens again.”
According to Bellin, Holocaust survivors are very willing to share their stories because they fell that tis their obligation to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.
Some other students also had personal reasons to participate in the reading.
“The Holocaust really resonates with me since I realized how much it impacts the Cornell Jewish population because of how many of our ancestors were involved,” Allie Strauss ’11 said.
The commemoration was followed by a celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, at Ho Plaza. Many different activities were set up to observe Israeli culture through traditional food and drink and even free camel rides for the public.[img_assist|nid=37366|title=Ticket to ride|desc=Students received free camel rides on Ho Plaza as part of Israeli independence Day yesterday.|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]
“The purpose of this event is to bring us as much Israeli culture as we can to Ithaca for the day,” said Adam Fisher ’12 who helped organize the block party.
The event was attracted hundreds from the Cornell community to learn more about Israel and its culture.
At the block party, Kevin Shanmon ’12 met many of his friends who participated in the event’s organization and was very impressed by their cultural pride.
“I think it’s impressive to see how people you’ve met at Cornell are proud of their culture,” Shanmon said.