Celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month by Taking a Virtual Tour


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Friday, May 17, 2024
New England Holocaust Memorial

To celebrate this year’s Yom HaShoah (also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day), Rio Salado College hosted a special event on May 6. Students, faculty, and community members came together to take a virtual tour of the New England Holocaust Memorial. Based in Boston, this remarkable public monument offers visitors a chance to take an edifying walk through a park full of historical plaques, towering glass structures, and informative stations.

Reina Ferrufino, Rio Salado's Executive Officer of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, opened the event by sharing a definition of anti-Semitism and providing a quick overview of the history of the Holocaust, tracing its beginnings from the Nazis being voted into power in 1933 to the passage of the Nuremberg race laws in 1935 laying the groundwork for the roundup and mass extermination of Jews, Romany, homosexuals, Communists, and the disabled. Closing on a reading of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous “First They Came” poem, Ferrufino directed participants to the virtual tour where they each got to interact with the New England Holocaust Memorial through an immersive, point and click photo realistic simulation of the park.

Entering the memorial, participants watched a video of holocaust survivor Sonia Weitz sharing a poem. They then watched a video of the 1995 dedication of the memorial site by former Boston mayor Thomas Menino. Camp liberator Leon Bass recounted his harrowing experience of entering Buchenwald for the first time and seeing the emaciated, malnourished camp survivors with his own eyes. Memorial founder Steve Ross shared his motives for building the park, explaining why he dedicated his life to making this dream a reality.

Journeying further into the memorial, participants heard further testimonials by survivors Rena Finger and Izzy Arbeiter. Clips explaining the history of the holocaust played, along with an explanation of the symbolism behind the memorial’s design. The number six figures heavily into the park, especially in its most noticeable landmarks: the six steel and glass towers lining its center lane. These six towers represent the six million Jews killed during the holocaust. The number also connects to the memorial as a symbolic representation of the Menorah and the six points of the star of David.

There’s more symbolism to the towers than just their number. Each tower has a steaming grate on the floor that people walk over, grates illuminated by small lights beneath them. The lights represent the charred embers of the gas chambers, and the steam that occasionally rises up from the grates evokes the smokestacks of the camp crematoriums.

Concluding the memorial with a speech by Night author and survivor Elie Wiesel, the memorial ends with a final call to action asking what visitors will do to honor the memory of the dead. The virtual tour was a haunting, moving experience; if you want to experience it for yourself, click on the link below.

Tour The New England Holocaust Memorial


Article by Austin Brietta