The University of Wisconsin Hillel building is hosting the a photo exhibition on the Holocaust until late March. The exhibit, Zachor: The Holocaust Memory Project, breaks away from traditional Holocaust education because it is participant-led, Rabbi Judy Greenberg said.
Viewers are welcome to spend as little or as much time looking at the portraits and reading the testimonials as they like, Greenberg said.
Lining the walls of study spaces and event rooms are black and white portraits of local Holocaust survivors, many of whom are now in their 80s. Below the photos hang each of their stories, which visitors can read at their leisure as they make their way around the room.
The smiling faces of local survivors do more than tell a story — they represent an exercise in empathy, Greenberg said. It’s impossible to know a person’s history just by looking at them.
The mission of the Holocaust Memory Project is to create an archival legacy of Holocaust Survivors’ portraits and narratives, according to project’s website.
Remembering that legacy can be daunting, UW Hillel assistant director Micah Ariel-Rohr said.
“Seeing the portraits around the building, in the way that it’s both a part of our everyday lives and it’s also something we can walk right past … It’s a hard thing to wrestle with, that the memories, the legacy, the history, are part of our lives on an everyday basis, but also something that we can compartmentalize,” Ariel-Rohr said.
It is a coincidence that the Hillel is housing the exhibit between International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27, and Yom HaShoah, Apr. 28, because the exhibit travels from institution to institution, Greenberg said.
“Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day that the world is more aware of, but it’s more of an ‘outward-looking holiday,’” Greenberg said, “Yom HaShoah is much more of an internal observance as a community.”
While International Holocaust Remembrance Day usually focuses on the crimes committed against Jewish people, it is important to remember that 5 million other people, including Romani’s, disabled people and members of the LGBTQ+ community were also killed, Greenberg said.
On Yom HaShoah, UW Hillel, sometimes in collaboration with the Madison Jewish community, hosts a memorial. The details for April 2022 are still in the works, Greenberg said.
Students can grab a bite to eat at Adamah, the kosher restaurant located conveniently inside the Hillel center, while they explore the exhibit and remember the legacies of local Holocaust survivors.