On January 28, 2024, International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the fifth anniversary of its establishment, the Holocaust Garden of Hope hosted a gathering of over 100 at Kings Harbor Waterfront Village in Kingwood, Texas. Speakers included founders Rozalie and Mitch Jerome, retired Texas A&M Professor David Lawhon and Rice University Professor Moshe Vardi.

Mitch Jerome spoke about the New Antisemitism, putting the recent “Black Shabbat (Sabbath)” on October 7 in Israel in perspective. He recapped the recent tragedy with sobering statistics, and then brought the story home, commenting that most of America is covered with some form of hate, antisemitism, terrorism, etc. “It’s like a plague over the country.” Referring to the Holocaust Garden of Hope, he said, “We are in a spiritual war – good against evil, light against darkness. It’s so obvious one more Holocaust Garden here is not going to tilt the scales to a kumbaya world. It’s only a change of heart. We call it in Hebrew ‘tshuva’. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep building museums, coming together like we’re doing today, standing for righteousness. Otherwise, our silence or inactivity will be misinterpreted for acquiescence.”

Rozalie Jerome held a meaningful candle-lighting ceremony, inviting people from the audience to remember six major concentration camps and six categories of people murdered by the Nazis.

David Lawhon is Professor Emeritus of American history and Holocaust studies for Texas A&M University at Galveston, where he was the university’s Honors program director. He related the story of his father, a liberator in World War II with the American 49th Rainbow Division, liberators two concentration camps. After training, he was assigned to pull bodies out of rail cars. As sat and wept, “a skeleton, basically, crawled up to him and kissed him on his feet. In a lot of the Jewish community, I’m known as a son of an angel. I guarantee if you’re in a concentration camp and those boys come break into those gates and liberate you, they had wings on their backs.” “My father and a lot of other people’s fathers risked their lives, to go over and liberate these people. It affected him a lot. Hitler took my father away from me.” Lawhon has a long history with the March of Remembrance Texas. He concluded his remarks with, “Take care of your children. Teach them. It is your responsibility to do that.”

Moshe Vardi is a University Professor and George Distinguished-Service Professor in Computational Engineering at Rice University, where he recently celebrated his 30th anniversary. He is also a faculty advisor for the Kennedy Institute and holds many honorary doctorates and fellowships. He remarked, “we’re here today because it’s the 79th anniversary of Liberation of Auschwitz. But it was a long time ago [I am] here today because antisemitism is alive and well. I used to think that it’s a niche phenomenon on the extreme left, on the extreme right, I discovered I was wrong” He mentioned his recent op-ed in the Houston Chronicle that can be read at https://holocaustremembranceassociation.org/a-moral-rot-at-rice-university/. Vardi was born in a small kibbutz in Israel to parents who had both survived the Holocaust. So much of his family was lost “I can legitimately say I grew up in a house with more ghosts than living people.“ He learned of the Holocaust when his father gave him a copy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, when he was a young boy. “My mother was a natural raconteur. When she retired from her job as a librarian at age 60, she spent the next 20 years talking about the Holocaust. She used to bear witness, now it’s my job. Every Holocaust Remembrance Day, I find an audience and I tell the story of how my parents survived the Holocaust. I view it as a duty and a mission.”

Professor Vardi told the enrapt audience, “The Holocaust did not start with murder. It started with words. It started with hate. There’s one important lesson that people don’t talk much about. After the Holocaust the Jewish people decided, ‘We are the only ones who can defend ourselves. We cannot count on the world to defend us. We have to defend ourselves.’” He ended with a poem by Hannah Senes, one his heroes, a British paratrooper who died after being captured in Hungary.

Blessed Is the Match

“Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame

Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart

Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame”


Rozalie Jerome thanked Professor Vardi, and then proceeded to remind attendees about the upcoming Beauty for Ashes Luncheon at the Kingwood Country Club on Friday, March 22, 2024. She introduced Scott Green, the new Treasurer on the Holocaust Remembrance Association Board of Directors. He was a good friend and boss to Alexander Pollack, the visionary for the Holocaust Garden of Hope. Rozalie announced that enough donations have been received to build the third exhibit, The Web of Deception: Politics and Propaganda, soon. She thanked all donors and encouraged more donations so that the rest of the eight exhibits can be built to the benefit of the local community and those who visit virtually on www.HRA18.org.

To close out the afternoon, Steve Finkelman, by birth a Cohen, descendent of the Jewish priestly line, related that his father was also a Holocaust survivor and survivor of another death march to Mauthausen concentration camp, which was liberated by the US Army. As he pronounced the Aaronic blessing, he gave the translation, “May the Lord bless and keep you, may the Lord cause his countenance to shine upon you and grant you His greatest gift of all, Peace! Amen.”