Kent State’s Jewish community commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day

Emma MacNiven, Reporter

Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi and other members of the Kent community banned together for 24 hours to read names of the 6 million who perished in the Holocaust in commemoration of Yam HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day April 27.

“We have 6 million names to read and we get through as many as we can,” said Engagement Manager at Hillel, Michael Pollak.

Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi hosts the “We Walk to Remember” on over 171 campuses annually. It wasn’t until 2012 Kent State’s AEPi chapter made this a 24-hour event.

“We used to do it for six hours, and that was always special, but once you get into the night where it’s 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., you’re like, really deep down in the heart, you’re really saying those names,” AEPi’s President, Andrew Aronoff said. “You’re like, well, these people so many years ago really went through this experience.”

The reading of the names grabs many students’ attention as they walk by throughout the day.

“This is a time to hold both the horror and sadness and the hope,” said Michael Ross, rabbi at Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson. “As Jews, we are used to that. We are used to doing both, so it’s going to be an uncomfortable 24 hours.”

Yom HaShoah commemorates the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which lasted over a month. It was the first attempt at an armed revolt against the Germans, when thousands of Jews were killed.

In 1941, 37,000 Jews were killed in Babi Yar, Ukraine. The Babi Yar memorial and mass grave was hit, but was not damaged.

Babi Yar is one of the many places where there are accusations of antisemitic war crimes to this day. Earlier this year, it was hit by Russian missiles in an attack near Kyiv, where five were killed.

The Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitism is at an all-time high in the United States in 2021. Attacks against synagogues and Jewish community-centers have risen by 61 percent, according to the report.

“It’s so important that we need to get the word out that the Holocaust happened,” Micheal Pollak said. “We don’t forget that it happened, and we make sure there’s awareness not just for the Jewish population, but [for] everyone on Earth.”

When it comes to younger generations and their understanding of the Holocaust, a study by the Claims Conference found 56 percent of Millennials and Gen Z in the United States were unable to identify Auschwitz-Birkenau, the concentration camp.

“We have to be able to move to a place of tolerance and compassion,” Rabbi Michael Ross said. “Learning how to learn to live in a diverse world.”

Emma MacNiven is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].