Art created at UA Hillel Holocaust vigil will be reminder for public schools

Attendees at the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation Holocaust vigil decorated frames bearing lines from a poem by Pavel Friedman, who died in Auschwitz. (Sara Harelson)

Flags and museum pods lined a section of the University of Arizona Mall this week, as volunteers took turns reading the names of lives lost in the Holocaust.

The University of Arizona Hillel Foundation hosts a 24-hour Holocaust vigil every year in memory of the six million Jews whose lives were lost. The 27th annual vigil was held from 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 21, until 10 a.m. Thursday, March 22.

“My favorite thing about doing this event is the opportunity for me to learn more while also educating the public and the UA community,” says Calli Bagshaw, student co-chair of the event with Loren Rosenberg. “It is so important to honor the victims of the Holocaust.”

Hillel sponsors art projects in conjunction with the vigils. In the past, students helped make ceramic butterflies for the Butterfly Project installations in Tucson. This year, art project student co-chairs Jessica Grossman and Sydney Kenig helped create an interactive piece for public schools in Tucson. Local artist Julie Stein designed frames with stanzas from the poem “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” by Holocaust victim Pavel Friedman, which inspired the Butterfly Project. Visitors at the vigil decorated the frames, which were displayed during the event before being donated to the Jewish History Museum, where they will be given to schools that take field trips to the museum.

“These frames are in honor of the children who died in the Holocaust,” says Grossman. “That’s why we picked the poem to use and why it’s so important for them to go to public schools. It helps to educate and remind the children at the schools about their trip to the museum and the lives that were lost.”

The vigil also featured a new museum pod this year. Bagshaw worked with a design student to develop an interactive pod that gave an idea of the living situation experienced by Jews living in hiding.

“I wanted to show the fear that Jewish families were living in even before they were sent to concentration camps,” she says. “It shows the close quarters Jewish families had to share while in hiding.”

Hillel Foundation staff joined the student leaders in running the event and educating the public. Director of Jewish Student Life Michael Walden stayed up all night with the students and united with everyone in the reading of the names.

“I’m out here because this is a chance for hundreds of UA students not just to remember the Holocaust, but also learn how this happened so we can all talk about it,” says Walden. “Learning about tragedy is part of what makes us all active, thoughtful global citizens who can prevent atrocities when we see warning signs.”