Dedication memorializes Holocaust victims

Miles Wohl, a junior studying business administration and management, reads during the remembrance ceremony. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami
By Emmalyse Brownstein

Miles Wohl, a junior studying business administration and management, reads during the remembrance ceremony. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami

Dedication memorializes Holocaust victims

By Emmalyse Brownstein
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, UM Hillel, the University’s Jewish student organization, hosted a name-reading ceremony on campus to honor the children who died during the World War II genocide.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday at The Rock on the Coral Gables Campus, University of Miami students and faculty, staff, and community members read names of children who died in the Holocaust. But even six hours’ worth of names is still a drop in the bucket, said Rabbi Lyle Rothman. 

“It’s one of the most powerful initiatives that Hillel does,” said Rothman, who has headed the student organization as chaplain for the past five years. Name reading ceremonies like this happen all over the world as a way to commemorate the day, he said. “This is a time where we get to say ‘this happened. It happened and it killed 6 million Jews and 11 million people.’”

Anti-Semitic hate crimes have been on the rise in recent years, with an increase of 14% reported in 2019 by the FBI. Holding such events on college campuses aims to actively confront and speak out against such violence. 

“When anti-Semitism is normalized, we have the opportunity for something like the Holocaust to happen again,” Rothman said. “Any sort of hate and racism and bigotry needs to be stamped out. We’re seeing it in our Black communities, in our Asian communities. We are required to speak out, so this doesn’t happen to us again, and so it doesn’t happen to anybody else.”

Hannah Eiger, a junior and a co-president of UM Hillel, read names at the ceremony and said she has a special connection to Yom HaShoah, the Yiddish name for the holiday. Many of her extended family didn’t survive the Holocaust. 

“I think about my dad’s Zayde [grandfather in Yiddish] and the rest of his immediate family every day,” said Eiger. “For me, this event is about mourning my family members and remembering the many lives and individual stories that were lost during the Holocaust. The immensity of loss that resulted from the Holocaust can be extremely overwhelming, even for a third generation American Jew like myself.

For Eiger, this is also a way to foster community on campus. “We hear ’Canes care for ’Canes so often, and this is a prime example of putting those words into action. Whether the students who participate are Jewish or not, they are taking the time to commemorate the Holocaust, support the Jewish community, and be there for the Jewish students on campus.”

President Julio Frenk also took a turn at the podium along with other university administration and staff members.

“As someone whose own family was persecuted, who lost loved ones, and who is married to the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, this moment of remembrance is very personal,” he said. “At the same time, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the atrocities we had hoped were behind us could reemerge from the troubling trends of rising racism, anti-Semitism, and ethnic cleansing that persist today. It will take sustained effort by people of conscience from all walks of life to truly overcome hatred.”

Understanding and remembrance, Rothman said, was the goal. “I hope people walk away with an awareness that what happened so long ago could happen again if we are silent. No one should be targeted for who they are or what they believe in.” The event closed with a memorial prayer led by the rabbi and a lighting of six yahrzeit candles to represent the six million who died.

For more information, updates, and notices of future events from the University of Miami Hillel, visit its website or follow @umhillel on Instagram.