Illini Hillel marking 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht with art installations

Illini Hillel marking 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht with art installations

CHAMPAIGN — A commemoration of the burning of synagogues and Jewish homes 80 years ago in Germany is taking on more meaning this week in the wake of the recent mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

"The commemoration of this event is that much more relevant and important to demonstrate how we as a Jewish community honor our past and live on in the wake of tragedy," said Rabbi Ariel Naveh with Illini Hillel in Champaign.

On Nov. 9, 1938, Nazis in Germany burned synagogues and destroyed Jewish homes, schools and businesses, killing nearly 100 Jews. Broken glass was scattered through the streets of Jewish neighborhoods from the damaged buildings, leading to that tragic day known as Kristallnacht, meaning "Night of Broken Glass."

Today, on the eve of its 80th anniversary, Kristallnacht will be commemorated on campus with a public event featuring two visual art installations from nationally renowned artist Shimon Attie. The event, set for 5 p.m. in Room 1028 of Lincoln Hall, is being co-hosted by Illini Hillel and the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, Memory Studies and Program in Jewish Culture Society.

Two of Attie's most famous works will be showcased:

— "Writing on the Wall," an installation of pre-World War II photographs of Jewish life in Berlin that he projected on the streets of present-day Berlin in the spots where they'd been taken.

— "Nightwatch," a short silent film that features New York's refugees and asylum-seekers in a series of moving portraits.

Naveh said both installations highlight important themes of the Holocaust and the idea that the Jewish community is mandated to never forget what happened and to share the stories of those who were affected by these events.

That especially goes for "The Writing on the Wall," which reveals pictures of a thriving Jewish community prior to Kristallnacht.

Naveh said it's imperative as a Jewish community to bring attention to the horrors of the past and "show what anti-Semitism looks like and how it is still occurring in our society, and what we can do to counter it."

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