Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site Home to Inclusivity and Bridge-Building
If you have walked by the construction zone at Penrose lately, you might have noticed the recent installation of a series of large metal screens at the Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site. Spelling out the word "Hineni" (literally, "Here I am") in Hebrew script, the screens refer to the post-Holocaust philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas who uses that term to signify the infinite responsibility that each one of us has for the person who stands before us. Having witnessed first-hand the atrocities of human indifference during the Holocaust, Levinas hears in the expression "Here I am" a veritable placemarker for our own humanity, pointing to the call to serve the other that defines each one of us first and foremost as an ethical respondent.
It is precisely this spirit of stewardship, encounter, justice, and response that defines the Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site, a DU-wide project with its roots in AHSS's own Center for Judaic Studies (CJS) and its Holocaust Awareness Institute (HAI). The site is intended to help foster inclusivity, intercultural and interfaith bridge-building and social justice on campus and beyond. It has already hosted a number of gatherings co-sponsored by many campus and community groups, including an afternoon of interfaith learning and conversation for nearly 100 student and community participants in April 2011, a "Digital Storytelling for Social Justice" project featuring the voices of students, staff and faculty in May 2011, and a social-consciousness-raising electronic art installation by eMAD/ DMST students in November 2011, to name just a few. Many student groups gather at the site to address campus diversity and intercultural efforts, and a number of AHSS faculty have brought their students to the site for class-wide conversations about justice, peace, and inclusivity issues that come up as part of their course syllabi.
In addition to functioning as a new campus site for diversity and bridge-building, the site has also received national attention for its creative rethinking of the form and function of Holocaust memorials, and memorials in general. In 2010, James E. Young, the world-renowned memorial expert appointed to the jury for the World Trade Center Site Memorial competition, visited the DU site and praised its unique vision of memorialization by way of social action. During his visit, he participated in a 7-person panel on memory and memorialization, including AHSS faculty Bonnie Clark, Anne DePrince, Sarah Pessin and Lydia Gil Keff.
"The site is a Holocaust Memorial precisely to the extent that it functions as a social action site," explains Prof. Sarah Pessin, the director of the Center for Judaic Studies and faculty-member in the Department of Philosophy. "The aim is to encourage ethical dialogue and action aimed at making the world a better place."
Plans are currently underway for a new series at the site called "DU Speaks Justice," and for a series of events related to Colorado Ballet's city-wide "Light" programming this Winter and Spring. To learn more, visit www.du.edu/cjs.
If you have ideas for ways you would like to use the site, please contact CJS at email@example.com.