Middlebury Community Observes Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Bridget Colliton, Staff Writer

A ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah, took place on Sunday, April 23, in Mead Memorial Chapel. The College’s Charles P. Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life sponsored the event, and students Sarah Asch ’19.5, Cece Alter ’19.5 and Hannah Krutiansky ’19 — all board members of Hillel — worked with Rabbi Ira J. Schiffer to plan it. Middlebury College has been hosting Holocaust Remembrance ceremonies since the late 1970s. This event brought together students involved in Hillel as well as members of Havurah, the Addison County Jewish Congregation, in remembrance of the genocide that claimed the lives of over six million Jews.

The service began with a background address delivered by Chaplain of the College Laurie Jordan ’79 and ended with a Benediction by Schiffer. The event also featured a candle lighting ceremony, memorial prayers and musical interludes sung by the Middlebury College Choir. Both students and community members recited texts and led the congregation in song.

After the candle lighting ceremony, Alter and Krutiansky both spoke about their grandparents’ experiences during the Holocaust and the importance of remembering their stories in order to prevent future tragedies. “I think as we get farther and farther away from the Holocaust it’s easier to not think about, but especially as a Jew it’s such a part of our history and something that’s really important to remember, especially for me since my family was involved,” Alter said.

Both Alter and Krutiansky emphasized the Holocaust’s relevance to the current political climate. “When I went to Auschwitz with my grandfather, there was a teacher there who asked my grandfather if there was one thing I could teach my students, what would you want it to be, and he said ‘To love everyone,’” Krutiansky said. “When you love everyone, it’s much harder to get into such dangerous situations.”

Local physician Dr. Jack Mayer, author of “Before the Court of Heaven,” spoke next, focusing on Germany’s descent into Nazism. Mayer drew a comparison between Germany’s pre-1933 Weimar Republic and the United States’ current political climate, noting, “The Nazis wanted to make Germany great again.”

Asch, Krutiansky and Alter all serve as board members on Hillel, Middlebury’s Jewish student organization. Hillel holds services in the Freeman International Center every Friday night followed by a dinner, and also hosts other events for Middlebury’s Jewish student community. “It’s nice to have a Jewish space away from home,” Asch said. “Hillel offers a really great place to kind of reconnect with Judaism, because for a lot of kids college is the first time they’ve had to seek out a religious community.”