Sarah Pessin

Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site

Sarah has helped ideate, build, and oversee programs for DU’s Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site–a city-wide hub for social consciousness raising and hope.

Transforming memory into social consciousness and action at a space dedicated to diversity and inclusivity through learning, intercultural dialogue, and social justice initiatives. 

The site is framed by the term ‘Hineni’ (‘Here I am’); Cantor Zachary Kutner reciting a prayer at the dedication in 2014 (seated: Chancellor Rebecca Chopp; Dean Daniel McIntosh); view of the campus clock tower; 8 foot tall metal lattices spell out “Hineni” in handwritten Hebrew letters; an early CAD rendering by the University Architect; evening film screening; a dance performance; Native prayer flag; rendering of the “hineni” lattices.

In her role as Interfaith Chair and previous Director of the Center for Judaic Studies, Sarah has served as the creative director of the Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site.

She worked with community leaders and the University Architect team to help raise funds for and offer design oversight and pedagogical direction for DU’s Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site.

Rooted in the Center for Judaic Studies’ Holocaust Awareness Institute as a campus and city wide space for “tikkun olam” (repairing the world), the site is framed by 8-foot tall metal lattices which are constructed in the image of shattered glass conjuring memories of Kristallnacht while also spelling out the Hebrew term “hineni,” “here I am.” In the post-Holocaust philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, this phrase marks the human subject as a site of response to the call of the Other.

It is in this deeply ethical spirit that the site invites participants to reflection and dialogue in the spirit of intercultural bridge-building. The site also includes a central stone seating bench; forged in the shape of the Hebrew word ‘chai’ (‘life’); shaped like a flame, the gathering of people in learning, dialogue, and action serves as this Memorial’s “eternal flame.”

To date, the site has hosted such wide-ranging activities and events as a student digital art installation, a dance event on memory and trauma by a local dance group, a meeting of high school students and Holocaust survivors, an installation of Native prayer flags, a gathering of local church leaders, a Native blessing, an interfaith workshop, a sexual assault prevention meeting, and a digital storytelling project that addressed themes from poverty to current-day slave-trades to anti-Latine prejudice in America.

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