Jewish leaders say new features at Holocaust memorial come at ‘critical moment’

Jewish leaders launched new features at the New England Holocaust Memorial on Thursday, saying the modern updates come at a “critical moment” amid an “alarming increase” in reported anti-Semitic violence.

The local leaders in the Jewish community and Holocaust survivors came together to unveil an interactive mobile tour at the downtown Boston memorial.

They noted the recent local anti-Semitic incidents — including a man last week allegedly stabbing a rabbi in Brighton — and reports that Holocaust education is at an all-time low across the country.

“We’re here at this memorial at a critical moment for our commonwealth and our country to reaffirm the urgency and importance of Holocaust awareness and education,” said Marc Baker of Combined Jewish Philanthropies.

“It’s been just 75 years since the Holocaust, and somehow it’s like we’ve forgotten already,” he said.

The memorial in memory of the 6 million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust now has a new website and an interactive mobile tour experience.

Visitors can use their mobile phones to activate a nine-stop guided tour of the memorial by scanning QR codes throughout the site.

Each stop features an audio, text or video segment, including testimonials from Holocaust survivors, a short history of the Holocaust, an explanation of the symbolism built into the memorial and resources for educators.

“When we survivors are no longer here, I know that our legacies will continue,” said Holocaust survivor Janet Singer Applefield, 86, who’s featured during one of the memorial stops. “Our stories will not be forgotten.”

“The stories of our survival will be preserved,” she added. “This important history will be saved for posterity.”

Thursday’s event was planned more than two years ago before the pandemic, but the timing of it now “could not be more appropriate” given the events this year in Massachusetts, said Jeremy Burton of Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.

Burton cited the “rising, alarming increase” in anti-Semitic hate speech and violence — noting the Duxbury football players using anti-Semitic slurs, the white supremacist and anti-Semite murdering a Black man and a woman in Winthrop last month, and then “the horror last week in Brighton that hit so close to home in so many ways.”

Gov. Charlie Baker at Thursday’s event stressed the importance of standing against hate.

“Because if you don’t, if you give it a chance to breathe, if you give it a chance for people to blow on it, that fire will burn, which is why it’s so important for all of us, every chance we have to step up and say, ‘No,’ ” Baker said.

Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey said the memorial “stands as a way for us to remember and never forget the horrific tragedy that we have seen in the Holocaust, and to make sure that it never ever happens again.”

People around the world can also experience the memorial virtually at www.nehm.org.

Read More