Passing On Holocaust Knowledge In Small Gatherings Makes A Big Impact

Shai Avny is Mount Zion Temple’s engagement director and an Israeli, and one way he’s merged those facets was when he helped bring Zikaron BaSalon to the Twin Cities. 

Zikaron BaSalon, which translates from Hebrew to mean “memory in the living room,” is in its second year in the Twin Cities, and is a community-driven social initiative typically consisting of three parts: testimony, often from a survivor or a descendent of one, or from a Holocaust expert; expression, where participants can share poetry, song, story, or prayer; and discussion.

This year’s events are on Sunday, April 24, and Tuesday, April 26. Volunteers are invited to host either a virtual or in-person discussion at the time of their choosing on the dates provided. This opportunity is in addition to the community-wide commemoration on April 28 at Temple Israel in Minneapolis. The program is sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, and the St. Paul Jewish Federation. Sign up to host on the JCRC website.

In Israel, it’s a great way for the young generation to remember the Holocaust,” said Avny. “The younger generation needs something other than the usual Yom HaShoah program.”

Last year, Avny invited Shel Finver to speak. Both of his parents were survivors, and he did speak, although he said he wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea. But the smaller crowd did make it more palatable than the larger synagogue remembrance events. 

“There’s a recognition that survivors are at an age where they’re leaving us,” Finver said. “How do we continue meaningful recognitions that can teach the world?”

Adam Garen’s father was also a survivor and he was in attendance at Finver’s event last year.

“Is it valuable? For sure. And when this is possible in an actual living room space, even more,” Garen said. “Part of the holiness is the concentration where we’re all focused on the same area. I know I’m closer to Shel because of that. And him me. The more we know and understand our own community and our personal stories and history, the better we understand where we are and where we’re going. It’s very connecting and illuminating.” 

Emma Dunn, the Twin Cities young adult engagement director said that the smaller events of Zikaron BaSalon place some responsibility on the individual.

“It’s about asking all of us what our obligation is to remember by bringing people into smaller settings and providing the opportunity for direct testimony from second and third-generation speakers,” she said. “The idea is that everyone will feel that responsibility to speak up when seeing wrong and protect vulnerable communities and people.”

Avny also sees it as an important engagement tool.

“For us as a community, it’s a wake-up call to invite young adults,” Avny said. “We don’t do enough to invite our young adults to participate. We as a community need to ask how we will invite our kids who grew up in synagogues. This can be the perfect setting for them.”

Sign up to host or attend a Zikaron BaSalon on the JCRC website by March 31.

This article is sponsored content from YALA as part of TC Jewfolk’s Partnership program. For more information, check out our media kit.