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Group to host Holocaust remembrance service

| Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wednesday night at 8 p.m. the Jewish Federation of South Bend will host a Holocaust remembrance service at the Grotto to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust.

Trent Spoolstra, a 2013 graduate of Notre Dame who has volunteered with the Jewish Federation for the past seven months, helped to bring the event to Notre Dame’s campus.

The service coincides with Yom HaShoah, Israel’s official day of commemoration for the approximately 6 million Jews and 5 million others who died as a result of the actions of Nazi Germany and its counterparts. This year, Yom HaShoah begins the evening of April 15 and ends the evening of April 16.

Spoolstra said the Jewish Federation usually hosts events in downtown South Bend every year to honor of Yom HaShoah but this year wanted to bring Holocaust remembrance to Notre Dame’s campus.

The Grotto, as a place of reflection for all religions, seemed the ideal location to host the remembrance service, Spoolstra said.

“The Grotto, for those who are Catholic, is a place to remember Mary and honor Mary and, for those who are not Catholic, is a place of quiet and of peace, and a place where people can really gather their thoughts,” he said. “Knowing how powerful that is, we wanted to hold the event there.”

The agenda includes two readings, one by a Notre Dame student and the other by a Saint Mary’s student, a Jewish mourning prayer led by a Notre Dame professor and brief talk by a local Holocaust survivor.

Spoolstra said the Federation purposely chose to include students and staff in the event’s organization to make the event as student-, faculty- and staff-centered as possible.

“Obviously, the Jewish federation is hosting, but we did not want just us running the show, but wanted students to get involved because it is a day not just for Jews and the Jewish Federation, but a day for everyone,” he said.

Raz Revah, an Israeli emissary who has worked with the Jewish Federation since September, also helped organize the service as part of her mission to educate the American public about modern-day Israel.

“Part of my job is to talk about Israel and show a different side to Israel, and it is very obvious that this is what the Yom HaShoah service is,” she said.

Revah said the celebration of Yom HaShoah at the Grotto shares a tradition principal to the history of Israel with the South Bend community.

“In Israel, there are services and ceremonies throughout the day, and there is a siren that sounds throughout Israel and everyone stands silent for one minute during the siren,” Revah said. “Students at school, and even people in the roads and highways — everybody stops and will get out of cars to stand while the siren is sounding.”

Spoolstra said he hopes the service at the Grotto also serves as a reminder that genocides still happen in the modern world.

“After World War II, there were the instances in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and other countries, and what ISIS is doing in Iraq could be considered genocide,” he said. “It is a day to reflect on not only what happened during the Holocaust but also a day to reflect on what happens when good people sit by and let evil persist.”

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