26 January 2016

Keeping Tabs Holocaust Memorial by multiple artists

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Hazak, hazak, v’nitkhazek – Be Strong, Be Strong, and May We Be Strengthened

At the beginning of Nov 2013, this memorial sculpture was dedicated on the grounds of the Community Day School in Squirrel Hill. It was 18 years in the making. It didn’t start out to be a memorial in 1995. It began as a way for teacher Bill Walter to help his students grasp the enormity of the number 6,000,000. The number of Jewish lives brutally ended in the holocaust. He asked his students to start collecting pop tabs with the goal of collecting six million. The enormity of that task necessitated that more people would have to collect the tabs if they were ever to reach their goal. The other students in the school joined in, then community members, then more. Pop tabs came pouring in and after 4 1/2 years they had reached their goal of 6,000,000.

It was several more years before the idea of turning that collection into a memorial materialized. They then needed to raise funding as well as come up with a design. To their credit they did not rush this process. They brought in Elena Hiatt Houlihan, an artist, to work with the students and teach them some fundamentals of designing a public art piece. The full title of this is actually Gary & Nancy Tuckfelt Keeping Tabs Holocaust Sculpture after the two largest donors.

Three students: Maya Krasnow, Ingrida Ramanaviciene, and Pam Savitz came up with the basic design. Many others worked on the final design including architectural advisors, landscapers and contractors. What they ended up with is phenomenal in our humble opinions. It is simple and it manages to convey a profound sense of sadness.

Each pop tab, representing one life callously discarded by the Nazis, is placed into a glass block. There are 6,250 tabs per block.

960 blocks

Twelve walls make up the structure of an open, or fractured, Star of David that you can walk through.

The glass blocks are held in steel frames. It is stark and simple and poignant.

In a concrete ribbon that flows past the sculpture is an inscription in Hebrew and English. Hazak, hazak, v’nitkhazek – Be Strong, Be Strong, and May We Be Strengthened

In some ways we would have liked to see this memorial installed in a more public location where many more Pittsburghers and visitors would have seen it. In another way, however, (especially on a cold, grey, winter day) the location itself adds to the feel of the memorial. It sits far away from the city, and from any business district, where most of us must make an effort to visit it. It’s sense of isolation within the predominantly Jewish neighborhood reminds us that so much of the world remained far outside the horrific events of the holocaust. The rest of the world wasted far too much time before stopping this atrocity.

There was no vantage point near the monument where we could view the sculpture from above, so we kept checking until Google Maps satellite imagery finally updated on this block. We copied this image straight from Google Maps. Only from above can you fully appreciate the open Star of David design.

Image from Google Maps, Satellite view, Imagery ©2014 Sanborn, Map data ©2014 Google

Never forget.

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