As the last generation of Holocaust survivors continues to shrink, many students such as Aimee Schwartz ’22 understand the importance of keeping survivors’ stories alive and continuing to educate others on the atrocity. Schwartz is a leader of the Holocaust Remembrance Committee at Brandeis, a Hillel affiliate group, which was founded in 2021 and has since “spearheaded an array of events including speakers, film showings, and symbolic art activities,” according to their website.

Thursday, April 28 marked Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day. To commemorate, the committee held multiple different programs and events throughout the week. Up first was an art-making event with the Butterfly Project where participants decorated butterflies to honor the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust. The butterflies will be turned into an art installation to commemorate these lives. Another event featured a discussion with Prof. Irina Dubinina (RUS) about Soviet Jewry during WWII.

The committee also hosted the tradition of hearing the names of those who perished. Students had the opportunity to sign up for a slot to read names in the blue booths outside of the Shapiro Campus Center. 

On Thursday, the committee hosted Holocaust survivor and grandfather of Leila Small ’22, Abe Foxman to tell his story. The chance to hear Foxman’s story, as well as participate in the other programing throughout the week, supports an idea that Schwartz feels is integral, that “every single student at Brandeis should be aware of and get involved in learning about [the Holocaust],” she said. 

Schwartz’s grandparents are also Holocaust survivors, and she explained that “as a third generation offspring I think it’s our generation’s [responsibility] — college students — to now be in charge of commemorating.”

College campuses are particularly strong environments to get more people involved in and educated about the Holocaust, Schwartz explained. When tabling the different events, she realized that “a lot of people [did not] even know that it’s Yom HaShoah or the week of it,” but then they saw the events in the blue booths or in the Shapiro Campus Center, they wanted to get involved and participate. “That’s why it’s so important to have it in many different spaces across campus,” she said. 

Schwartz re-emphasized the importance of education about the Holocaust among college students and their responsibility to keep the stories alive for generations to come. “It falls on us, and it begins with a small event or a large event…there’s no sort of rules, it’s just however you feel is the right way to commemorate and I encourage every single person to be involved,” Schwartz said.