Buried at the base of the Kol Israel Foundation Holocaust Memorial are the ashes and artifacts of Jews who were killed by the Nazis at three concentration camps. Engraved on the surrounding walls are the names of those who died during the Holocaust and the names of survivors who have died since.
Since it was dedicated on May 28, 1961, at Zion Memorial Park in Bedford Heights, Ohio, the monument has been a place to remember and honor the victims of the Holocaust. Now, with the $1.7 trillion government funding package signed into law on Thursday by President Biden, the monument has been recognized as a national memorial.
“Congress recognizes the significance of the Kol Israel Foundation Holocaust Memorial in preserving the memory of the 6,000,000 Jews murdered by the Nazi regime and allies and collaborators of the Nazi regime; and honors the life and legacy of the Holocaust survivors who erected the Kol Israel Foundation Holocaust Memorial,” the bill’s language said.
At a ceremony on Thursday, a few dozen people gathered outside the Holocaust memorial to celebrate its federal recognition. They stood in the cold to see the flags of the United States, Ohio and Israel raised for the first time above what was now a national memorial.
Bob Zelwin, the president of the Kol Israel Foundation, said at the ceremony that it was “overwhelming” to know that the memories of the victims “will last forever because of this great designation that we’ve received.”
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The recognition of the monument as a national memorial comes as antisemitism is on the rise, evident in attacks on synagogues in Pennsylvania and Texas and in threats of similar attacks. Concerns about the increase in antisemitism recently prompted government officials, rabbis and leaders of advocacy groups to gather to discuss extremist acts.
Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, recently described violence and hate speech directed at Jews as an “epidemic of hate” against the Jewish community.
Daniel N. Zelman, the chair of the board of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, said in a statement that the bill was signed during a time of “escalating antisemitic rhetoric and even violence.”
“It is so important that Holocaust memorials like the Kol Israel Memorial be preserved so that they can continue to illuminate the horrors that can happen when hate is allowed to fester and grow,” Mr. Zelman said.
Bills seeking national recognition for the Kol Israel Foundation Holocaust Memorial were introduced in the House and the Senate in late April, sponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Shontel Brown, both Democrats of Ohio.
“When we pass that knowledge on to future generations, we recommit ourselves to ensuring it never happens again, and to fighting for a more just and peaceful world,” Senator Brown said in a statement.
Representative Brown said in a statement that she was “pleased” to see that the legislation to recognize the memorial had received bipartisan and bicameral support as part of the omnibus package, adding that the memorial’s recognition was “momentous” for “the survivors who erected this memorial and their families who continue its maintenance.”
At the ceremony, Mark S. Frank, a former president and a memorial chair of the Kol Israel Foundation, said that obtaining national recognition for the memorial had been in the works for several years, adding that the site had previously received an Ohio historical marker.
“Getting this designation really gives validity to the plight of our ancestors,” Mr. Frank said.