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Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holocaust Remembrance Day, known as Yom HaShoah in Hebrew, is a national day of recognition that took place on Monday, April 28. The day acts as a somber memorial for the lives lost in the Holocaust and as a remembrance of the chilling factors that contributed to the purge of innocent lives in Nazi Germany. In commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, members of the Grinnell community reflected on the importance of continued acknowledgement of the Holocaust and the events surrounding it. Grinnell also hosted an interdisciplinary panel discussion on “The Futures of Holocaust Memory.”

The panel discussion was moderated by Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow Evan Torner ’04 and consisted of three Grinnell professors: Katya Gibel Mevorach, Anthropology; Johanna Meehan, Philosophy and Dan Reynolds, German. The panel also included visiting assistant professor of German Elke Heckner from the University of Iowa, and visiting assistant professor of German Gizem Arslan from Knox College. Each of the speakers gave different perspectives in their discussions of the Holocaust and emphasized the necessity of humanizing the experience of Holocaust victims, especially as time passes and the memory of the Holocaust becomes more distant.

The speakers also emphasized the universality of racism, xenophobia and oppression in discussing the importance of reflecting on the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust.

“[We have] a responsibility to remind, not just to remember,” Gibel Mevorach said.

Lea Greenberg ’14 and Izzy Leo ’14 were part of the planning committee that worked on determining how the community wants to encourage introspection and reflection about the Holocaust.  For this purpose, they encouraged members of the Grinnell community to write brief essays about their thoughts of the Holocaust.  

“We really just wanted to create a reflective space for people to consider issues of memory, oppression and connecting the past and the present and to take this day and use some time to reflect,” Greenberg said. “I thought it might be good to get some thoughts and reflections from Grinnell College community members about those issues.”

Likewise, Leo said that bringing forth memories regarding the Holocaust and its scars aligns closely with Grinnell’s values. 

“Remembering and bringing that memory into the present is an act of resistance to the causes of the Holocaust, which in and of itself is a social justice issue—combating anti-Semitism and xenophobia and any form of racial discrimination,” Leo said. “Remembering is very much in line with these community-stated goals.”

Associate Chaplain and Rabbi Rob Cabelli stated that many are falsely led to believe that the events of the Holocaust were a tragic but isolated incidence in Nazi Germany, which Cabelli says is a dangerous assumption to make given the lack of responsibility associated with that mentality.

 “I think we’re all capable of doing fairly horrendous things—every single one of us, on some level, under particular kinds of circumstances,” Cabelli said. “I think there’s a much greater need for us to take on collective responsibility individually for our part in the whole.”

Professor Emeritus Harold Kasimow, Religious Studies—a Holocaust survivor—gave a talk for The Jewish Federation, the four Des Moines area synagogues and the Iowa Council for Holocaust Education in Des Moines. At the talk he summed up the purpose of Holocaust Remembrance Day by quoting a passage from the Hebrew Bible, ending on a positive note of hope against fear and hatred.

 “In the Hebrew Bible, it’s recorded only one time to love your neighbor as yourself, but it’s mentioned 36 times to love the stranger,” he said. “The hope is that somehow, people would become sensitive to that message. I know that we’re speaking now and its 70 years after the Holocaust. We’ve had so many genocides, but we can’t give up hope. We have to keep reminding people what fanaticism can do.”

Correction: Professor Harold Kasimow was originally listed as a member of the panel discussion “The Futures of Holocaust Memory”, which is an error on the part of the S&B. Kasimow delivered a different lecture in Des Moines that was separate from the panel held at Grinnell. The S&B would like to apologize for any consequences of this error. 

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