The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Beth Zion Holocaust Memorial
An Addendum

Upon my return from Poland on the "March of the Living" I felt a vast emptiness of memory in our immediate milieu. There was so little to remind us of the unbelievable story of inhumanity that took place during the Holocaust. With all that I saw, heard and witnessed I wanted to know only more. I swallowed with an insatiable hunger the books, photographs, museums and personal testimony that depicted in one form or another the greatest insult to human existence; the Holocaust.

It was then, after consultation with a number of survivor members of our Congregation, that the Executive and Board of the Beth Zion passed a mandate to erect an outdoor memorial in the vicinity of our Synagogue. Edith Brodkin, noted sculptress, was commissioned to design and craft the work due to her talent, sensitivity and previous experience with the Eternal Gardens Memorial.

After several presentations, we arrived at what we felt would be a meaningful reminder of the unbelievable. A committee was formed, Jack Garfinkle was appointed Chairman, and we carried on hoping to achieve the words of Kazimierz Smolen found in the pictorial book "Auschwitz".

"In ten or twenty years from now, virtually all the eye-witnesses of the atrocities of Nazism will be dead. The world will be populated by generations who were not alive during the Second World War and did not experience it personally. They might be tempted to say `such are the laws of nature.' Is it not better to forget? Is it not better to wipe that period from our memory? Is it not better simply to be silent about things we have not experienced? The answer to such questions is an emphatic NO!

We remember not in order to open old wounds, not to fill the imagination of the young with images of horror: we remember as part of our homage to the victims. If we fail to remember, then their suffering and death will have no meaning: history will be incomplete."

Our goal and purpose in this project is to remember. The T'phillin was chosen as a symbol of faith found in the Torah that bound the Jew to his heritage in everlasting eternity and conviction.
The headpiece contains four portions of the Scroll placed in separate compartments and the letter shin is found on either side of the square. The shin on the right side contains three attached lines while the left contains four. Why the difference?

The famous Sage Ohr Hachayim states the following:

T'phillin, which is such an integral part of the life of the Jew must be symbolic of both men and women of our faith. Each plays an equal part in the balance of harmony and composition. Therefore the 3 pronged shin is dedicated to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the 4 pronged shin is devoted to Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. How unique! T'phillin is one of the only mitzvot in the entire Torah that symbolically includes both male and female in its conceptual theology. No one is excluded from its basic spirit.

Hovering above the T'phillin in the memorial design is a mass of individuals marching to their destiny in a manner quite similar to Rappaport's sculpture in the Warsaw Ghetto. When we visited the Ghetto last Spring, all that was left were pieces of stone shaped in a manner that immortalizes memory.
Stone can be a tremendous teacher when used properly. The Ten Commandments written on two tablets of stone is the best example of that reality. We look, we ponder, we reflect, we learn and then we seek to know even more. It's not just a piece of stone.

Our goal is to create lectures and teach-ins that will stimulate the mind in attempting to witness the unbelievable. The design of our memorial is to retain a memory for those that knew and create a sincere curiosity for those that did not. We wish to be an integral part in the formation of history. Six million Jews; men, women and children did not survive. They are but a memory! Let us remember never to forget to teach ourselves, our children and our children's children that memory.

[Signed] Sidney Shoham

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