Cornellians gathered together today on Ho Plaza to honor the millions of individuals who perished in the Holocaust for Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day.
Cornell Hillel annually hosts a speaker for Yom Hashoah, according to Jeremy Marchuck ’20, Hillel’s chair of the Cultural Programming Committee. This year, the group is not only hosting Holocaust survivor Irene Zisblatt to speak on May 3, but it is also complementing the speaker component with a new memorial service.
“It’s a very far-reaching event and that’s why I wanted to have a service so that people can see that and see how different people feel connected to it,” Marchuck said. “I want people to give their voice if they want to or, if not, just be able to take in the service for themselves.”
Marchuck opened the event by reading from the experiences of Holocaust survivor Eugene Black, who lost all of his family in Nazi death and labor camps.
“He is still piecing together his life and his family’s story,” Marchuck said. “This is just one of the many stories of survivors whose lives were touched by the Holocaust.”
A list of names of those who perished, both Jewish and non-Jewish, was passed around following the introduction. Each attendee read the name of a victim, the victim’s country of origin and where the victim perished, though some attendees chose not to speak.
“Holocaust Memorial Day is really meaningful to me,” said Niki Sochaczevski ’20. “Having family who perished in the Holocaust makes this day extremely meaningful and extremely somber.”
The ceremony shifted to an open forum once the reading of the names concluded. The memorial’s attendees were encouraged to reflect on their own experiences, and three people volunteered to lead in prayer. Rafael Jacobovitz ’20 read El Male Rachamim, a Holocaust Memorial Prayer, which was later read in English by Hillel president Brandon Cohen ’18.
“The Male Rachamim was written in remembrance of all the people who perished in the Holocaust so that God can protect their souls to be lifted and so that we can remember them,” Jacobovitz said.
Maddie Feldman ’19 read the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning, Kaddish, and Cohen concluded the ceremony with the poem “First they came for the Socialists…” by Martin Niemöller.
“For me, it’s just a constant reminder of what happened. I think it’s important to take a step back and remember some of the atrocities that have occurred,” said Jay Sirot ’19. “In the same way as Jews thrive in the U.S. and Israel, other groups aren’t thriving and I think it’s important that in the same way we suffered to think about ways that we can outreach and prevent anything [like this] from happening again, whether on the scale of the Holocaust or anything less.”