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Monument passes remembering to next generations

Simon Kogan

Simon Kogan, artist

The Holocaust memorial that was once a dream for Temple Beth Shalom in Spokane is now a reality. 

It stands by the entry to the offices and the education wing, visible through a window from the inside.

Support from the community, as well as from Temple Beth Shalom, made possible the physical memorial to 19 Holocaust survivors who have lived in Spokane and the spiritual reminder it represents, calling people to prevent future acts of genocide.

Four Holocaust survivors—Miriam Abramowitz Ferszt, Ruth Izakson, Eva Lassman and Carla Peperzak—attended the May 5 dedication Holocaust Remembrance Service, Yom Hashoa, at Temple Beth Shalom.

The proclamation by Governor Christine Gregoire—read by her husband Mike Gregoire—said the monument would be a reminder of “the darkest chapter of history,” when Hitler perpetrated “systematic state persecution and murder of 6 million Jewish women, men and children.

“Jews suffered atrocities.  Relocated to ghettoes, they faced starvation and disease, were lined up and shot, or were herded into trains to concentration camps, where they were in forced labor and often subjected to medical experiments.

“Survivors had no families or friends to welcome them home.  Their stories are difficult to hear but tell of both the toll of unleashed discrimination and the resilience of the human spirit in moments of extreme crisis,” her message concluded.

Pam Silverstein of Temple Beth Shalom said the idea of the memorial grew from the efforts of Holocaust survivors.  She said Eva has spoken throughout the region to educate people about hatred and bigotry, so people never again commit such atrocities.

Simon Kogan, the Seattle artist who created the monument, told those gathered about the development of the abstract copper sculpture, representing a body covered by a tallit—prayer shawl.

“It invites people to reflect on the 6 million lives lost, people who did not live their lives, but whose spirits live on and “ensure that Jews have a future,” he said.

“The memorial is not a gravestone but a means to pass on meanings so future generations will own them,” he said.

Simon found it hard to put the Holocaust theme into a physical shape.  He started several times and quit, overwhelmed.

“I decided to do a simple piece to transcend the horror—that would remind us without scaring us.  The sculpture represents a person not with us who is in prayer and stays in prayer,” he said.

The space between the prayer shawl and the body lets light in, a reminder that “light is the spirit of people,” he explained. 

“The tallit covers and protects,” said Simon, who chose co

HandsHandprints embedded in the front represent the hands of survivors.  By seeing them or touching them, he said, people can tap into the energy of survivors, experiencing renewal.  The hands represent the generations who died and the generations never born to 1.5 million children.

Letters of the Hebrew alphabet in the form of a flame  remind that each Jew who lost a life or who survived had a name beginning with one of those letters, he said.

The monument sits on broken stones, which represent order broken forever, Simon said, but from the dirt in the cracks, new life will come “as a symbol of ongoing order.”

The piece came from the foundry on a large concrete base. 

The first time it was placed, it did not sit right, so “we had to manipulate it until we found a place it stopped and found its niche in the rocks,” he said.

While it appears small and dark, Simon said that the darkness reminds of the Holocaust, but “when one stands right beside it, it appears enormous.” 

He made the monument so, from a distance, it seems like a dove, a symbol of peace, a symbol of the Jewish people and a symbol of struggling and growing.

Articles share thoughts of Yom Hashoa speakers

The Yom Hashoa service included statements by three government officials and representatives offering recognition of the days of remembrance to honor the victims, survivors, rescuers and liberators and to call for individuals, societies and governments to reflect on their moral responsibility.

The voices of speakers are in related articles.

The service also had the traditional candle-lighting ceremony in memory of survivors, second and third generations, servicemen who liberated camps, the call to peacemaking and the righteous among the nations.

Joel Lassman, the son of survivor Eva Lassman, said, “We must remember all who were slaughtered in the name of racial purity.  We must remember and our children must remember.  Those who survived did not give up hope in the darkest hours of their lives.  Survivors give us a light of hope in honor of fighting injustice and intolerance wherever it occurs.”

Joel expressed gratitude for the love, support, wisdom and strength the grandchildren have received from grandparents, “so generations to come will remember and strive for a more peaceful world.”

He said the fourth candle honors servicemen who die so others may be free and the fifth candle reminds people to fight hate and discrimination in order to build bridges of peace.

The sixth candle recognizes those who through the ages ignore the lies and risk their lives to save the lives of others and who work today “to promote tolerance, education and harmony, inspiring us to erase hate from our country and world.”

The service closed with a prayer for remembrance of those who have died; a Kaddish reading remembering those who suffered at concentration camps, and a prayer for ending war, starvation, prejudice, despair and disease.  

For information, call 747-3304.

By Mary Stamp, Fig Tree editor - Copyright © June 2005