Jewish students commemorated Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," at Hillels across North America last week with educational programs that recalled the horrors of the Holocaust and motivated them to speak out on human suffering worldwide.
For many Hillels, the programming called attention to the current humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. At the University of California, Davis, Hillel and the Cal Aggie Christian Association partnered to present "Never Again: Genocide from Europe to Sudan," where the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and an African history professor spoke about the impact both events had on their respective regions and the people who lived there.
"He was never at ease, never at peace. He survived, but he did not live; he existed," said Elissa Provance, whose father, David Einhorn, survived five concentration camps during World War II.
At the University of Toronto, Stephen Lewis, the United Nations Secretary General's special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told students that "there is no excuse on the face of the Earth to ignore what is happening in Darfur."
Lewis' lecture was part of Hillel of Greater Toronto's Holocaust Education week, and he offered students the perspective of someone who had recently visited the war-torn region. With the Sudanese government in disarray, Lewis challenged the rest of the world to bring about a change in Sudan.
"The governments that are in place...are not prepared to rescue the human condition in Africa," he said.
Music was the centerpiece of the "Voices of the Holocaust" memorial at Penn State Hillel. The State College Choral Society premiered a choral piece, also called "Voices of the Holocaust," comprising 22 songs with words and music created in concentration camps. Penn State Hillel Executive Director Tuvia Abramson welcomed the choral society's participation as a sign of progress.
"Always it is the Jews who remember the Holocaust, but it should be the non-Jews, the ones who created it. It is always the victims who remember and it shouldn't be. The choir, as a non-Jewish institution, is making an important statement by taking it on," he said.
Indiana University Hillel invited Ayal Rosenberg, the author of the new book "Denial," to underscore the importance for younger generations to develop their own responses to the Holocaust.
"We've been spoon-fed a reaction (to the Holocaust) from people who were around or experienced it, and we can't be expected to have the same reaction," he said. "We'll have to grapple with this and come up with our own honest answer of how to react."