Students plan Virtual Yom HaShoah Community Reflection.
By Naomi Verne
On May 1, the community of Kalamazoo College staff, students, administrators and supporters joined a Zoom call for the annual Yom HaShoah Community Reflection. This event is usually put on every year in person; people fill up the chapel in the center of campus, and we remember the lost and the survivors.
When approached with the question of “Should we do a Yom HaShoah reflection this year?” My answer was a resounding yes! It was made possible by the wonderful members of Hillel at Kalamazoo College and Chaplain Elizabeth Candido.
Living in the middle of a pandemic can be stressful, but I believe it is also an opportunity to step back and grow. For me, this time has been spent reflecting on my own connections to Judaism and examining what Yom HaShoah means to me.
I came to that conclusion the day before our Zoom call, when listening to my fellow classmates practice the Mourner’s Kaddish, tell the story of Paula Marks-Bolton, sing Eli Eli to remember resistance fighter Hannah Szenes and remember their own thoughts while walking through a death camp.
This year, Yom HaShoah must be about learning from our past, cultivating community and honoring the lives of those in the Holocaust more than any past years.
I believe the success of the Yom HaShoah Community Reflection came from remembering our past so as not to repeat it in the future. Anne Frank and thousands of others died from typhus and disease that spread through crowded camps without access to medical treatment. Today, we have camps with thousands of refugees who have been placed as “the other,” just as Jews have been, and prisons where COVID-19 runs rampant. Our Chinese classmates face xenophobia just as our ancestors (and even us) faced anti-Semitism.
Through acknowledging these comparisons, we can grow as a society and honor those on Yom HaShoah. This community reflection served to bring our small campus together; not just through the act of joining the Zoom call, but also through creating a common time to mourn as we know how other marginalized communities have felt. We are connected through shared grief and memories, and honoring Yom HaShoah is an act of resistance and comfort in the face of the unknown. We are stronger because of this, and we have learned how to stand up for justice during trying times.
Naomi Verne is a sophomore at Kalamazoo College.