Charleston Jewish centers atrium memorial to honor children of the Holocaust
With camps, community programs and Addlestone Hebrew Academy, the campus of the Charleston Jewish Community Center in West Ashley has established itself as a place where families gather.
“This is where children and families come,” said Judi Corsaro, executive director of the JCC. “It would be a crime not to have a Holocaust memorial of some sort here. We’ve got to keep the torch going and keep the story alive.”
Enter Fannie Appel-Rones, with a vision to renovate the center’s atrium into a garden memorial to the 1.5 million children who were killed in the Holocaust.
The project will be in the open-air center of the building, which was built in the early 1960s. It will replace a garden funded 50 years ago by an anonymous donor and the now-defunct Kalushiner Society in memory of the 6 million people killed in the Holocaust.
That garden has been neglected in recent years and is rarely visited.
“The garden needs restoring and now they have a memorial for the 6 million in Marion Square,” said Appel-Rones. “But there’s nothing for the children. A million and a half Jewish children were killed in the Holocaust, and I thought it was time we did something to remember them.”
The garden will be the only Holocaust memorial in the area dedicated specifically to the children, she said.
“It is not enough that we build it,” said Joe Engel, a native of Poland and a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz-Birkenau. “Everybody should know about it. I want people to come spend time in it and use it in memory of the kids. A thing like that should never be forgotten.”
Designed by Charleston landscape architect Sheila Wertimer, the passive garden will be meditative and low-maintenance.
“I have been in the atrium recently and it’s so relaxing to be in there,” said Masha Kalinsky, president of the Charleston Jewish Federation. “That’s what we want for the children. I think this will resonate more with people because it’s in the memory of the children.”
The current garden will be removed to make way for the new design, which calls for blue stone ground cover and raised brick beds filled with English boxwoods, Japanese maple and other “shades of green meant to be calming and soothing,” Appel-Rones said.
“Everything is first-class so this will be here forever and ever, long after we are all gone,” she said.
The garden will also include a “meaningful” sculpture by North Carolina artist Timothy Werrell, Appel-Rones said.
“When I say meaningful, I mean you don’t have to think what it is,” she said. “You’ve seen a lot of sculptures and you say ‘What in the world is that?’ But this would have something where, you see it, you know what it is, what it’s for, what it’s meant to be.”
So far, about $13,000 has been donated to the project, mostly from the Henry and Sylvia Yaschik Foundation and the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust. Appel-Rones said she does not know what the total will be as the project is still in the planning stages, but she hopes the community will embrace it.
“We want to encourage children to give a dollar, 50 cents, whatever,” she said.
Work will start once enough money is collected and will take about three months, she said.
For more information or to donate, call the JCC at 571-6565.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.