Thursday, January 19, 2012

Holocaust Memorials in American Jewish Cemeteries

Holocaust Memorials in American Jewish Cemeteries

Jerry Klinger, who through through the not-for -profit Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation has organized the creation and installation of historical and commeorative markers at the many Jewish historic sites across the Unted States (and some abroad), and brought to my attention a section of the website of the (online) Museum of Family History, that documents  monuments commemorating Holcocaust victims erected in Jewish cemeteries and New York and New Jersey.  These monuments, often erected by landsmanshaftn (in the same spirit in which memorial books were compiled),  are little known, and are increasingly forgotten.  This on-line exhibit brings many of these monuments to public view, and offers and opportunity to remember and reconsider the fate of those who died.  The web exhibit is well done, with good photos and complete transcrioptions of inscriptions and the names.

There are believed to be thousands of physical memorials to the Holocaust in the United States, located mainly in synagogues and cemeteries, but also in schools, hospitals and increasignly in the past two decades in public venues.  These memorials include small plaques and inscriptions; memorial plantings in gardens; larger statues and monuments; and permanent educational exhibitions and museums.  There have been some (faield) efforts to document all these memorials, but to date there is no central inventopry or registry. At best, local historical societies and other groups keep records of lcoal examples.  The webpage of New York and New Jersey cemetery monuments is a good example.

Accroding to the web exhibit text:
 "There is not one typical memorial, though most are made of stone or granite. Some are large and detailed, others are small and simple. Some list the names of individuals and entire families that perished. Some have a large amount written in Hebrew, in Yiddish or in English; others are written in all three languages. Some memorials even contain tangible remnants of those horrible times--ashes from Auschwitz or a bar of soap that was made by the Nazis from the bodies of their Jewish victims.
It was the job of the landsmanshaftn, those social organizations that had originated in and represented their hometowns back in Europe, to care for their own. One of their many functions was to provide a burial place for their members. For these landsleit there were perhaps expectations that when they emigrated, other members of their family would eventually join them, spend the rest of their lives in a land that would truly welcome them, and perhaps at the end of their life, be buried alongside each other. For those that couldn't or chose not to emigrate, and for those would reluctantly left their families behind and be permanently separated from them, these memorials serve as a lasting tribute, a permanent link that connects them in both life and death.

Within this exhibition are representations of these memorials: photographs, names of the deceased, quotes from various Hebrew texts and blessings in English. Shown here are the majority of Holocaust memorials that exist in the New York and New Jersey metro area

The Museum of Family History, created by Steven Lasky, is a virtual (Internet-only), multimedia, and interactive creation designed for those  "interested in learning more about modern Jewish history, as well as those who were a part of this history, who now grace the many branches of our family tree. The Museum humbly attempts to honor the Jewish people and the Jewish family unit in particular."

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