Group pushes for restoration of old memorial

A group of New Haven residents has recently begun a campaign to restore and to increase awareness of the city’s Holocaust memorial in the Edgewood neighborhood through Greater New Haven Holocaust Memory, an organization founded last fall to preserve the memorial.

The state of the monument has gradually deteriorated, GNHHM President Doris Zelinsky ’71 said, and her group — aided by a few Yale students — has launched a campaign to raise between $60,000 and $100,000 to restore the memorial and defray upkeep costs for at least the next 100 years. So far, the New Haven non-profit organization has consulted a sculpture expert and a landscape architecture expert in order to determine the cost of restoration and upkeep for the future, she said.

“I talked to friends and neighbors, and we came together as a community group and formed a non-profit organization to restore the memorial physically and capture the history,” Zelinsky said. “A lot of Yale people have also become involved in this effort.”

Members of the Yale community have also played a role in campaign.

Andy Horowitz ’03, director of the New Haven Oral History Project, said he has worked with students to interview the people involved in the construction of the memorial thirty years ago. He said he currently employs students to translate survivors’ accounts of the Holocaust and has provided the necessary equipment to Mike Brown ’06, who has conducted the interviews as part of his senior essay on the history of the construction of the New Haven monument.

“I’m sure the sort of awareness we’re raising is helping to raise money,” Horowitz said.

Brown said he has recorded about 10 hours of interviews and is now putting them together into a narrative. He said he will present his material at a talk at the Slifka Center on April 26, during which he hopes to increase awareness among students of the unique place of the Holocaust Memorial Monument in New Haven.

“It will be a good chance to get some Yale people and members of the New Haven community involved in this,” he said. “Many people don’t know it exists. I didn’t know it existed until this fall.”

The New Haven monument — situated in Edgewood Park on Whalley Avenue — was the first Holocaust memorial in the United States to be built on public land.

It was erected in 1977 after a group of about 50 Holocaust survivors in New Haven — headed by Lew Lehrer, one of the survivors, and supported by church leaders and residents — wanted to create a monument in the city in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Frank Logue ’48, the city’s mayor at the time, supported their cause, set aside a piece of public land and helped to fund the construction of the monument.

Before the monument existed, Zelinsky said, Holocaust survivors would organize a service for Holocaust Memorial Day every April at the Schubert Theatre on College Street, which often attracted large crowds. She said the high turnout drew the attention of the Jewish and wider New Haven communities to the need of having a substantial symbol of memory in the city.

Zelinsky said the GNHHM has covered the memorial with wax, which will prevent any further deterioration for two years and give the group time to raise the necessary funds to restore the monument to its original state. She said she hopes the work will be completed by spring 2007, in time for Holocaust Memorial Day in April.

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