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Vol. 10, No.4 Summer 1992 GREATER lAFAYETTE HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE COMMITTEE 1982-1992: THE HISTORY OF A COMMUNITY'S CONFERENCES by Gedalyah Engel Conference Coordinator and Marilyn' Engel 87 In 1982, U.S. President Ronald Reagan asked the mayors of America to organize Holocaust Memorial Committees in their communities in conjunction with the National Holocaust Memorial Council established by an act of Congress in 1980. Congress also set aside land for a Holocaust Museum to be erected nor far from the \X!hite House with the contributions of private citizens. When the Museum opens in 1993, Americans will be reminded that World War II began as "The ,War Against the Jews" when the world remained silent. Now throughout America, community Holocaust Memorial Committees including Survivors involve Americans in remembering the Holocaust through annual commemorations. What follows is a brief account of the Greater Lafayette, Indiana, Holocaust Remembrance Committee. The Joint Conuuittee The citizens of Lafayette and West Lafayette had already been involved in the eflons of another community committee organized in 1977 to help families leave the Soviet Union. Throughout the locally proclaimed Human Rights Week signatures were collected in houses of worship and at Purdue University addressed to the head of the Soviet Union on behalf of one or more families denied the right to emigrate for family reunification. People adding their names to petitions became emotionally committed to fight for human rights in a distant country. Interest in adopted families remained high throughout the year aided by media coverage of conference phone calls. The two dailies,journal and Courier and Purdue Exponent, and the weeklies, Catholic Diocese 'lbe Sunday Visitor and the Lafayette Leader, 88 SHOFAR plus television and radio coverage made the plight of Irina and Woodford McClellan and other divided families very personal. Because of the success of that joint committee, James Riehle, Mayor of Lafayette, and Sonya Margerum, Mayor of West Lafayette, favored forming one Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Committee. They realized that while America in the midst of a recession was becoming more susceptible to the divisive rantings of hate mongers, Greater Lafayette residents were becoming more open and accepting of those who were different. They attributed this difference in part to the community involvement in reaching out to strangers, an involvement in which unknown Refuseniks had become like next door neighbors who deserved assistance. The Mayors envisioned as another positive inl1uence, a Holocaust memorial committee to further reduce the inl1uence of hate mongers. They recognized that manyJews were already personally involved in remembering "The War Against the Jews." The six million dead had living relatives in this Midwestern community. The heads of both cities turned to Rabbi Gedalyah Engel, then Director of the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation, who had developed the Greater Lafayette Committee on Human Rights in the Soviet Union, to organize a local Holocaust remembrance committee. Based at Hillel Foundation, the Committee promotes community cooperation by enlisting a broad ecumenical group of clergy in town and on the Purdue campus. The Greater I.afayeue Ilo)ocaust l{emembrance Committee consists of local Holocaust survivors and other interested citizens, Jews and Gentiles, Purdue faculty and students. In Greater Lafayette several veterans of World War II either were concentration camp liberators or had been prisoners of war in Germany; there were also several survivors living in the community. The chairmen (and since 1989, co-chairmen) of the Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Committee, which includes both Jews and Christians, also head the annual Conference. Holocaust Retuembrance Conference In the Spring of 1982, a series of Holocaust Memorial events were coordinated by the Mayors' Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Committee. Evaluation of the week's programs prompted the Committee to plan an all-day 1983 Conference with a single theme and out-of-town authorities. The objective was to encourage participants to use knowledge of the Holocaust (() promote individual and community moral action. Vol. 10, No.4 Summer 1992 89 Since 1983 the Committee has conducted a Spring Holocaust ,Remembrance Conference. Each Conference theme is reflected in a poster created by local artists. The poster, sent to the Jewish community and university students, interested individuals, and houses of worship and displayed on the Purdue...


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