Since sometime in the 1960s, the camp has had a modest Holocaust memorial near the lake between where we store our rowboats and kayaks and the cabins of our youngest boys. Knowing for years that he would be in Nivonim in 2015, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of many of the concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust, one of the campers who spent a number of early summers playing in that area wanted to update and enhance the memorial. He approached me in the spring with the project idea and we began working on it. In collaboration with some of our senior educators and a committed team of counselors, a group of Nivonim campers spent the summer studying about memorials and then designing Camp Ramah in Wisconsin’s new Holocaust memorial.
The memorial consists of six sets of mirrors that form the external edges of a magen david (Star of David). Once within the circle, the mirrors reflect one’s image almost infinitely. On the outside of the mirrored panels is written the haunting poem of Dan Pagis, himself a Holocaust survivor and noted Israeli author, called כתוב בעיפרון בקרון החתום / katuv ba’iparon b’kraun hachatum, “Written in pencil in the sealed railway car.” The memorial is still modest, in the shadow of the same trees that lent the previous version its solitary, understated persona. Seventy years later, in the thoughtful and intentional way that is our hallmark, this memorial stands as a testament to a Jewish renaissance. At the impetus of a single sixteen-year old who felt the camp needed something more substantial to commemorate an event his grandparents likely could not remember living through, our community now has a beautiful and moving statement of where we have come from and who we are.