The Holocaust Remembrance Association (HRA18) celebrated a successful Grand Opening of Phase One of the Holocaust Garden of Hope – a unique children’s memorial garden at King’s Harbor in Kingwood, Texas – on November 5, 2023. Over 600 people joined the launch of this touchstone for the community.
The ongoing crisis in Israel serves as a stark reminder of the Holocaust Garden of Hope’s vital role in safeguarding the truth of the Holocaust. Right now, the world is witnessing the consequences of a troubling pattern of denying and rewriting the history of the Holocaust, as millions continue to deny the Holocaust and the legitimacy of the Jewish nation.
That is why now more than ever, for such a time as this, the need for the Holocaust Garden of Hope is underscored by the urgency of the moment. The efforts to build this crucial memorial and promote its launch send an undeniable message to the world – never again.
“Teaching on the Holocaust has to go from head to heart, from being ‘taught’ to being ‘caught,'” said Mitch Jerome, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Holocaust Remembrance Association. “Once caught you transform a person that can stand toe to toe against the evils of racism, prejudice, persecution, bigotry, and antisemitism. A person that can go from pacifist to activist, from bystander to upstander; uncompromising on truth and morality can change the course of history for the better.”
“The Garden is going to go beyond this location. We recently received a $46,000 Texas Historical Society grant recommended by the Texas Holocaust Antisemitism and Genocide Advisory Council to make the Garden Virtual Access for worldwide viewership,” said Rozalie Jerome, Founder of the Holocaust Garden of Hope. “Also, the Holocaust Remembrance Association is collaborating with Texas A&M. Dr. Cheryl J. Craig, along with her team are creating an introduction to teaching the Holocaust course for middle school and high school teachers internationally….using Holocaust Garden of Hope as their template.”
Rozalie also tied the past to the present in a very personal way. “Landscape architect Lauren Griffith designed the Garden as well as Discovery Green and other well-known locations. It happened to be that her mother-in-law was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who survived Auschwitz by being a gardener for a Nazi officer. How apropos that Lauren got to play a major role in the creation of the Holocaust Garden of Hope in Kingwood, a super suburb of one of the largest cities in America.”
Rozalie Jerome is also President & Executive Director of the Holocaust Remembrance Association, as well as the National Director, March of Remembrance Texas, which has mobilized K-12 schools, universities, and thousands of people throughout Texas since 2012.
Texas State Representative Charles Cunningham (District 127) presented a Resolution honoring the work of the Holocaust Remembrance Association. An excerpt of the Resolutions reads; “Whereas on October 7, 2023, a Jewish holiday, Israel suffered a brutal attack from the militant group Hamas, which has been called the deadliest day for Jewish people since the end of the Holocaust; this tragedy has profoundly affected people of Jewish descent around the globe and brought attention to the reality of anti-Jewish violence in modern times.”
H.E. Pjer Šimunović, Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary, Embassy of the Republic of Croatia to the U.S., served as honorary chair of the event as well as delivered the keynote address. Croatia has the Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) for 2023 and 2024.
“My sincerest congratulations to y’all who have invested an amazing effort, and achieved a great success in launching such a noble initiative, the most noble of them all, aiming to remember, to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, educate, provide guidance, and gather good people together,” said Ambassador Šimunović. “The opening of the Garden of Hope has been a profoundly moving, memorable event. Mazal Tov.”
Jay Zeidman, a commissioner of the Texas Holocaust, Genocide, and Antisemitism Advisory Commission (THGAAC) also noted the importance of the Holocaust Garden of Hope. “I’m the son of the former chairman of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D..C. my father, Fred Ziedman. The parallels between the Holocaust Museum in DC., that’s a permanent exhibit and what you built here is something permanent, something that kids can come and learn about what happened. And we say this message never again. And I didn’t think that any of us ever thought that four weeks ago we would be reminding ourselves of the importance of that statement. So this memorial means the world to this community, to the state of Texas…You could have been sitting on the couch watching football… You made an effort, you made a commitment to come here, to be present at the opening of this incredibly important exhibit.
And it will be here forever. And so I hope you’ll return. I hope you’ll bring your families the way I’ll bring mine. And Rozalie, thank you for what the work y ‘all have done. And to everybody, thank you for just being here, for showing up.”
“At the Holocaust Garden of Hope, we will use painting, sculpture, music, physical structures, and creative educational tools to illustrate the experiences of children during the Holocaust,” said Holocaust Remembrance Association Founder, Rozalie Jerome. “Children and adults will be inspired to stand up for what is right and honor the memories of innocent victims with a life dedicated to healing and reconciliation.”
Our Upstander Stone Project memorializes the names of approximately 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust, and gives people today a tangible way to remember them. This project seeks to paint a memorial stone for each of those children.
These stones are being painted by individuals, families and volunteers from corporations, schools, clubs, nursing homes, and other groups throughout Texas and beyond for the Holocaust Garden of Hope. Stones are a traditional way for Jews to honor and acknowledge the true eternity of a person’s existence. They are a common item left at Jewish memorials worldwide.
Anyone can contact the Holocaust Remembrance Association to request one or more kits of 20 stones, with paint, markers and names of 20 children who perished in the Holocaust who will be memorialized in this unique way. Visitors to the Holocaust Garden of Hope can view the stones and begin to understand the astoundingly great number of innocent lives lost.
Holly Ham, a member of the Holocaust Remembrance Association Executive Advisory Council, and Co-Chair, Holocaust Garden of Hope, Phase 1 Grand Opening said,
“The Holocaust Garden of Hope is truly inspirational. Being involved at this level has changed my perspective on how to be an upstander and to continue fighting prejudice, hate and persecution. For many years, the dedication and focus of the Garden’s leaders and volunteers truly exemplifies how hope and determination is making a difference in this world.”
Other speakers at the Grand Opening included Rabbi Dan Gordon who said, “Temple Beth Torah, the closest synagogue to here, is five miles away. It is not in the heart of the Jewish community. It is closer to what some might call the Bible Belt. And we hear about all the anti-Semitism that has been happening. Two incidents happened at the only Jewish synagogue in the area five miles away. Someone came onto our grounds and put at our doorstep a bouquet of flowers and a candle of St.Michael the archangel with a note saying that she was going to do a novena for us. The second anonymous drop at our doorstep was a half a dozen of these purple wristbands that say on one side ‘love is the answer’ and on the other side ‘peace’.”
Jobst Bittner, Founder of the March of Life (Remembrance) Movement, which has reached over 350 cities worldwide, said, “As part of the Executive Advisory Board of the Holocaust Remembrance Association, I express my appreciation to all who were and are involved in bringing this Holocaust Garden of Hope into existence. From this place, future generations will learn that anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews only breed death and destruction, and silence shouts louder than action.”
Dorit Novak, the former Director General of Yad Vashem, and the Director of the International School for Holocaust Studies, said: “It’s an honor and privilege for me to be here today. And you would think that after 16 years at Yad Vashem, I wouldn’t be emotionally involved and excited, but I am. So I really appreciate the whole event and mainly the intention that was translated into this beautiful Garden that we just visited.”
She also shared a short, but powerful verse from Wisława Szymborska, a Polish poet:
Palm of the Hand
Twenty seven bones,
Thirty five muscles,
about two thousand nerve cells
in each fingertip of our five fingers.
to write Mein Kampf
or The House at Pooh Corner.
Novak also said; “And I think the question of what will become of the young people, whether they will write this or that, mainly depends on education. And this Garden’s main target is to deal with young children, young students, young people – in order to make sure that if and when they will reach a point when they will have to make a decision, the story of the Holocaust will be part of the shared memory and the understanding that stepping forward, seeing things and not ignoring things is their responsibility.”
Bill Orlin, Child Holocaust Survivor participated in the Grand Opening and offered a personal story from his life:
“I was born in 1932. I’m now 91 years old, and this is what’s left of me. The war started September 1 1939. (7 year old boy) On September 8, the German forces were in my little village of Bioroké, where the Jewish people had been since about 740. The total population in my village was 800. 200 were Jewish people. As soon as the Germans arrived, they announced anti-Jewish laws, and they burned down all the Jewish homes in the synagogue. I credit the Catholic Church for my survival, because we lived directly across the street from the Catholic Church, and they allowed us to sit in the yard with about 25 other people watching my house burning. The people who were looking for shelter during the night, many people picked up, and 300 of them were taken to the adjoining town. I forget the name of the town, but they drowned in the river Boog. We spent the night in the church yard.”
Dr. Susanna Kokkenon, the author of the exhibits at the Holocaust Garden of Hope, said; “To say that this day is a historic occasion would be an understatement. Following a Holocaust survivor Alexander Pollak’s initiative, finally after years of work we are seeing the first elements, the gate and the first panels on location. This happens, as the world is living through tumultuous times.
There’s much meaning to this timing, as the mission of the Garden will be to educate not just us but future generations. The Garden will speak about the dangers of antisemitism, prejudice and hatred. I would like to believe that in this Garden you will not only experience sadness for the lives lost but hope for the future. Hope is in our actions. Let us make a pledge to remember, educate and live the message of this Garden in our communities and countries. Thank you for being in the Garden today!”