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This Month's Featured Stories  

A Symbol of Hope and Healing

Students Plant Butterfly Bushes in Memory of Holocaust Victims
by Amy Balogh

butterfly bushThe DU chapter of Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternity, DU Hillel and DU's Center for Judaic Studies (CJS) came together in October to plant two butterfly bushes at the on-campus Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust. The site invites people from all backgrounds to come together in dialogue and bridge-building, in the spirit of diversity and inclusion and in the service of repairing the world.

"The planting was inspired by the famous poem 'The Butterfly,' composed by Jewish poet Pavel Friedmann in the Terezin Ghetto in 1942 before his deportation to the Auschwitz extermination camp where he was murdered in 1944," said Dr. Sarah Pessin, director of the Center for Judaic Studies and the Holocaust Awareness Institute. "The butterfly bush, named for its natural ability to attract butterflies, recalls Friedmann's closing line, "There are no butterflies, here, in the ghetto," while also offering a message of hope and healing," she added.

Austin Oberfeld, DU student and member of ZBT, read the poem aloud just before a traditional Hebrew blessing for planting. DU student and ZBT representative Aiden Stowell (Pioneer Leadership Program, International Security and Military Science), who approached CJS with the project idea in spring 2016, reflected on the meaning of the planting:

"In recent years ZBT has developed a heritage committee, with the hopes of reconnecting our fraternity with our Jewish roots and founding. This project offered an opportunity to really put our work to practice."

Jamie Skog, DU Hillel campus director added: "This project has enabled Hillel to strengthen its relationships with both ZBT—a historically Jewish fraternity—and the Center for Judaic Studies while leaving a lasting impact on the University of Denver Campus."

Pessin thanked the CJS staff, University Architect Mark Rodgers and DU Facilities for assisting in the planting.

"We hope that these plants can serve as daily reminders to each of us to protect our neighbors, far and near, from all backgrounds against bias and prejudice of all varieties," she said.

The planting came just a few days after the installation of "action flags" at the site by students in honor of Native American heritage and in the spirit of intercultural healing. The site has also hosted an afternoon of Muslim-Christian-Native American-Jewish dialogue, interdisciplinary dance and art installations, and a "Digital Storytelling for Social Justice" project.