The Catholic University of America

CUA Marks Tenth Anniversary of On-Campus Holocaust Memorial

WASHINGTON, 13 October 2012 - On October 13, 2002, the Catholic University of America erected a Holocaust, also called the Shoah, memorial on its grounds, outside of Caldwell Hall.  Following the installation, which was accompanied with a conference to recognize the significance of the event, the University, and particularly the School of Theology and Religious Studies, were confronted by the community with the question, “Why did a Catholic University put up a memorial to the Holocaust?”

Dr. Charles B. Jones, founding Director of the Institute for Interreligious Study and Dialogue and current Associate Professor of Religion and Culture and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, wrote a moving response to those questioning the appropriateness of a “Jewish” monument on the campus of a Catholic University.  Pointing to the universal ramifications of the Holocaust, both then and now, and the unique relationship between Christianity and the Jewish tradition, a relationship that has been and is currently being mended, he disclosed the fittingness of this memorial.

The memorial, designed and created by Aharon Bezalel, is an artistic articulation of a menorah.  The menorah is the religious symbol used to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which celebrates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt.  As a small amount of oil was used to light the lamps in order to purify the Temple for eight days, contemporary Jews light candles for eight nights to commemorate this feat.  A classic menorah is a candelabrum with nine arms, one to hold a candle for each night of the celebration and a ninth to hold a candle used to light the rest.  CUA’s menorah has six arms instead of the classic nine, each one representing one of the six million of Jewish victims who perished during the Holocaust. On the memorial is inscribed a quotation from Blessed John Paul II’s visit to the Holocaust museum in Israel, Yad Vashem,

“No one can forget the terrible tragedy of the Shoah.  We wish to remember and to ensure that never again will evil prevail.  I fervently pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the 20th Century will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews.”

It has been ten years since the menorah was placed on CUA’s campus with a commemorative ceremony, and it has mostly fallen into obscurity in the student body’s mind.  Students rush by its resting place in a hurry to get to class or their next activity, but just as Dr. Jones wrote nearly ten years ago, it is time to remember and encourage “those who pass by it should take time to look at it, and think about the common history and future challenges and promises for reconciliation that it embodies.”

The Holocaust Menorah is located at the corner of Caldwell Hall near the Campus Ministry Office.