Once upon a time there was one communal Holocaust commemoration event in Denver. It was founded and led by the amazing survivors who lived locally. It was the same group who raised the funds and dedicated the Holocaust memorial — the first in the state to our knowledge — that sits on the grounds of Hillel Academy.
The Denver Jewish community was blessed to have many of these humble heroes in our midst, especially considering the relative size of the Jewish community. These survivors — among them men like Fred Englard and Zesa Starr — made a lasting impact on everyone they met, child and adult alike. Those that are still alive, like Zachary and Trude Kutner, continue to do so. At the time, there was also much less knowledge and education about the Holocaust. We relied on the first-person testimony of these survivors — and how privileged we were to have it.
Over the years, Holocaust remembrance events have proliferated, with two becoming more established: HEA’s event, now named in honor of beloved survivor Jack Goldman, and the ADL’s Governor’s Holocaust commemoration, the highlight of which is survivor testimony.
It’s a difficult question to ask, but does our community benefit from these diverse events? Would it be better to have one communal commemoration event, as many other Jewish communities across the world do?
If there are multiple events, would it be preferable that they be run jointly under one auspices, with each event offering something substantively different? An example of that model would be the Greeley Holocaust Memorial week, which includes events as diverse as educators workshops, film screenings and, of course, survivor testimony. But it’s clear that it’s one singular event, made up of component parts.
Another model could be a single communal event — such as the survivors’ memorial — which takes place at a communal institution — as the survivors’ memorial does at the JCC — with individual synagogues and temples integrating a Holocaust commemoration into their services on the corresponding Shabbat.
Or is the way that is has evolved the way it should be, with individual events serving different segments of the community?
We appreciate your feedback on this sensitive topic.