UD Hillel observes Holocaust remembrance week, reads names of victims aloud
BY Senior Reporter
Yesterday, students walking by the dorms of the North Green heard the names of holocaust victims ring out over the usual sounds of beeping crosswalks and people chattering on Main Street.
UD Hillel, a Jewish community and student center, read, in alphabetical order, some of the names of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust over six hours. Reflecting the enormity of the death toll, it seemed that not even six hours was enough to get through all of the victims’ names.
Rabbi Nick Renner, the senior Jewish educator for Hillel, said that his organization does this every year in light of Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, which occurs on Wednesday, May 1.
By the end of the event at 8 p.m., Renner and members of Hillel had only gotten through a few thousand names in their six hours of reading, a “drop in the bucket” in the number of those killed in the Holocaust. It would take them approximately half a year, at the pace the names were read, to say all the names.
According to Renner, the event is planned mainly by students who volunteer their time between classes and other obligations, signing up for 15-minute intervals to read names aloud over a speaker on the North Green.
“Hearing these names out loud, especially in the wake of the synagogue shooting over the weekend in San Diego, makes memory feel more present and more like a living, breathing thing,” Renner said. “The hatred that still exists today is a big part of why it’s so important for us to remember.”
The name readers were not only members of the university’s Jewish community — they also included a representative from the university’s Muslim community, and a Christian student had spontaneously asked if she could read several names with her Jewish friend.
“One of the most important parts of Holocaust Education Week is creating a space for people to ask questions and learn,” Renner said.
Tuesday’s events began with a silent “Walk to Remember” of participants between a flag display in front of Memorial Hall and then continued with the name-reading tent sponsored by Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Phi. Participants were invited to add names of members of their own families to the list of those lives lost during the Nazi “Final Solution.”
Students Maia Lee and Kat Warner were out sunbathing and enjoying the sunny day on North Green when Hillel staff started the reading of names at 2 p.m. They live nearby in Sharp Hall dorm so they heard everything from the beginning.
“It was really interesting that they didn’t seem to make a big deal out of it. It’s really awful but interesting to hear the names aloud,” Warner said. “They definitely made me stop and think.”
Lee and Warner reflected on the enormity of the tragedy together while laying on North Green.
“It started at 2 and now, at 3:45 they’re still on the letter A,” Lee said. “It really makes you consider just how many people lost their lives, it’s crazy.”
Hillel’s Ezra fellow A.J. Wright believes reading these names aloud is important to honoring the dead.
“It’s eerie to hear the names read aloud but it’s so important to remember those who came before us in order to give them the honor and respect they deserve,” Wright said. “Just this weekend, a woman was killed simply for being Jewish. In light of that tragedy, remembrance becomes more relevant and reminds us why we’re doing this.”