Why a Holocaust Memorial?
by Pastor Jack Flournoy
Have you ever read an autobiography of a Holocaust survivor and not wept? Or watched a Holocaust documentary and not reeled with horror and grief? Or listened to a Holocaust survivor’s testimony and not been overwhelmed by the depth of their trauma and suffering as they shared their story?
Like you, I haven’t. Even after years of being involved with Holocaust Remembrance Day events, I still can’t read a Holocaust history book for more than 30 minutes at a time.
Unfortunately, many of our younger generations don’t share the same awareness of the Holocaust. And this means they can’t share the same depth of empathy or the same commitment to not letting anything like the Holocaust ever happen again.
The Holocaust Remembrance Foundation of the Valley
For many years, my wife and I attended the local Holocaust Remembrance Day observance at the conservative synagogue in Murrieta, California. We heard many testimonies, and our understanding of the Holocaust deepened. At the 2013 service, we looked around and were saddened to see that only 22 people had come. No civic leaders, no other pastors, no youth groups, no one from the local schools were there. Just a few elderly people and the rabbi took the time to remember.
The stark reality hit us: If we didn’t do something, the memory of the Holocaust and all those who perished in it would fade into vapor and be gone forever. This is how God moved us to form the Holocaust Remembrance Foundation of the Valley (HRFV) and create our annual March of Remembrance.
The March of Remembrance
In 2014, we organized our first March of Remembrance, with two synagogues, four churches, and 175 community members participating. This event has steadily grown, with four synagogues, 12 churches, many civic leaders, and 425 people coming last year.
Our March of Remembrance is a time to gather together, center ourselves with music, prayerfully and reverently walk for the victims, and listen deeply to Holocaust survivors. Other speakers have helped us remember too—we’ve had a representative of the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, a state senator, an assemblywoman, and a county supervisor all participate in this event. The centerpiece of our program is honoring the survivors who are present, as well as those who have recently passed on. This year, we were sad to be remembering three survivors of our area who recently died.
As the years go by, we’ll inevitably lose more Holocaust survivors and their firsthand accounts. So we have a sense of urgency to add to the March of Remembrance by building something more permanent.
The Holocaust Memorial
Our foundation is actively planning to build a permanent Holocaust Memorial in Town Square Memorial Park in Murrieta, California.
Why Murrieta? After World War II, many Jewish people—including many Holocaust survivors—moved from Los Angeles and settled in a quiet community surrounding Murrieta Hot Springs. They were instrumental in developing the city of Murrieta and building the first synagogue here. Their memory lives on in this city.
So in December 2017, we presented our Holocaust Memorial proposal and architectural plans to the Murrieta City Council. They gave us unanimous approval and designated a plot of land in the park near its other memorials for us to use.
At this point in the building process, our architectural plans are in the hands of engineers. They are working with the city to obtain our building permit. As soon as we have the permit, we’ll celebrate with a groundbreaking ceremony.
This permanent Holocaust Memorial will be educational, and we’ve designed it not just for the general public but especially for our local schoolchildren. Both sides of 10 vertical 6-foot panels will tell the story of anti-Semitism throughout history, its rise in the 20th century, and its extreme expression in Nazism and the Holocaust—covering the perversion of laws, the ghettos, the concentration camps, and ultimately the death camps.
But the story won’t end there: we’ll tell of the liberation of the camps, the immigration of so many survivors to Palestine/Israel, the establishment of the state of Israel, and hope for the future. We’ll also have two meditation areas, which teachers can use with groups of students as they learn about the Holocaust and the vital commitment to never let it happen again.
Our theme is “Out of Despair—Hope!”
I firmly believe that God has given us a solemn task to create not only an annual March of Remembrance but also a permanent physical Holocaust Memorial to honor the lives of both those who perished and those who survived and to stand as a reminder of the dangers of anti-Semitism. Thank you, and may the candles of remembrance endure through all generations! For more information about how to partner with us and support our efforts, please contact our website:
Thank you and may the candles of remembrance endure through all generations!