Remembering the ‘Shoah,’ a Holocaust Remembrance at the University of Connecticut

By Maïna Durafour
Daily Campus
April 20, 2023

Panelists spoke about how to fight anti-Semitism and prevent heinous crimes. Photo by Maïna Durafour / Daily Campus

STORRS — A Holocaust survivor and panelists discussed the importance of remembering and educating people about the Holocaust in a world where anti-Semitism is still strong.  

The University of Connecticut Hillel hosted the event Tuesday at the Dodd Center for Human Rights located on campus. Yana Tartakovskiy, a UConn student and vice president of marketing on the student board at Hillel, organized the event. The event had been expected to be in collaboration with the Human Rights Symposium, but Tartakovskiy said organizers decided not to do that this year. Instead, she began to work on her own and approached the others at UConn Hillel who were supportive of the project.  

Tartakovskiy said she started her journey by looking for panelists to talk during the event, such as the University of South Carolina Shoah Foundation or the Connecticut Anti-Defamation League. “Shoah” is a Hebrew word meaning “catastrophe,” used to describe the Nazi’s extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II.

“I started researching Jewish organizations that could talk about anti-Semitism on college campuses,” Tartakovskiy said.  

Tartakovskiy said she also searched for a Holocaust survivor who would be willing to talk at this event, soon finding Nina Jacobs. Jacobs is part of Voices for Hope, a Connecticut database that allows Holocaust survivors and their descendants to connect.  

More than 100 people attended the event, both in-person and virtually to hear Jacobs’ story.   

“I’m not speaking for myself, I’m speaking for the 6 million voices that were destroyed,” Jacobs said at the end of her speech. “Parents have to tell them [their children] of being Jewish, and to be proud of who we are.” 

Inés Martinez Lebron, an international student from Spain, said she attended the event because she thought it would be a good opportunity to learn about a community she is unfamiliar with. 

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to do things like this in the next few years for obvious reasons, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to come here,” Martinez Lebron said.  

For Martinez Lebron, attending this event was important because it provides and opportunity to become more knowledgeable about a sensitive but world-changing topic from an expert.  

She and another student, Ella Gregory, said they agreed that this event should be more deeply discussed in their classes.  

Panelists spoke about how education is vital in the fight against anti-Semitism. Many states have mandated Holocaust education, but there is not a uniform curriculum that ensures all topics are covered. 

Nina Jacobs is a survivor of the Shoah and shared her story. Photo by Maïna Durafour / Daily Campus

According to Tartakovskiy, a standard curriculum and resources for teachers could facilitate the education of this topic. 

“It’s a very hard topic to teach, especially depending on the age of the students, so I think pushing that legislation and creating those resources would be the best way to go about it,” Tartakovskiy said.  

This comes against the backdrop of anti-Semitism incidents continuing to rise on colleges campuses and elsewhere.  

“I do know that every year, by almost 100 percent, anti-Semitic incidents have risen almost everywhere,” Tartakovskiy said. 

Tartakovskiy said planning this event was meaningful for her, as a way of reminding people that anti-Semitism is wrong. She said she believes anti-Semitism is normalized through social media, pop culture and entertainment, where these ideas can spread.  

“Having these kinds of events where you can talk about what anti-Semitism looks like in different forms, online and in person” is important, she said.

Beyond educating people about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, Tartakovskiy said having survivors testify about what they’ve been through is a way to make this tragic historic event more powerful.  

The USC Shoah Foundation is working toward keeping these testimonies on record by recording 3D virtual videos of the survivors where students can interact with them and ask questions.  

“I think being able to spread those kinds of programs across the U.S. would be very helpful for the newer generation,” Tartakovskiy said.  

A recorded version will be posted for people to watch Jacobs’ testimony and panelists’ talk.   

 

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