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'Proud of being Jewish': Berkeley Jewish communities honor Yom HaShoah

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Berkeley Hillel welcomes Holocaust survivors to talk about personal experiences and memorable stories.


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APRIL 19, 2023

Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorates a key moment of Jewish resistance against the Nazis during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. 

ASUC Senator Shay Cohen noted there are two different Holocaust Remembrance days, an international date of Jan. 27 which focuses on the Jewish liberation brought by the United States. The other dates are marked by the Jewish calendar, starting the night of April 17 and continuing into the next day, marking the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

“This is a really important day for the Jewish community,” said UC Berkeley Tikvah President Amir Grunhaus. “It is a date that reminds us to be proud of being Jewish, to be proud of where we come from and to remember ancestors. Some of them were killed and some of them are still with us today. This is one of the most important dates of the calendar for the Jewish community and especially for me as someone who is the direct descendant of Holocaust survivors.”

Jewish communities honor the day in various ways, Cohen said. When she was younger, she would go to Holocaust survivor speeches with her parents or visit Holocaust museums and ceremonies.

Cohen’s office and the Jewish Student Union had a four-hour ceremony on Sproul Plaza for Yom HaShoah on Tuesday, where students read the names of Holocaust victims. Students were welcome to light candles and take information cards about those who were murdered during the Holocaust.

As part of the remembrance events, a doctoral student also came to speak about the research they were conducting surrounding prisoners that were forced to become commanders for the Nazis.

The Jewish student center Berkeley Hillel also hosted Holocaust survivor Ben Stern and his daughter Charlotte Stern to speak and showed a film about their experiences on Monday. Cohen said all students were welcome to attend the event and ask questions.

“It’s a heightened day of emotions — the entire community is mourning for those six million that were murdered just for their identity,” Cohen said.

As the great-grandson of Holocaust survivors, Grunhaus said events like the ceremony on Sproul are crucial in telling the story of both victims and survivors of the Holocaust. He noted the importance of raising awareness within Jewish community and communities beyond.

Grunhaus also noted that anti-semitic movements are on the rise, and Holocaust denialism still occurs today. He emphasized the importance of educating all community members.

“Hearing and listening to the stories of Holocaust survivors and their descendants is very important because the only way we can assure a tragedy like the Holocaust never happens again is by educating and telling their stories, as hard as they are to listen to, Grunhaus said. “It’s really important that we pay respect to them.”

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APRIL 19, 2023