What is the Butterfly Project? Why is it important?
Mindy Michaels / Social Action / February 4, 2007
February 4, 2007
16 Sh'vat 5767
What is the Butterfly Project? Why is it important? By Mindy Michaels
I never saw another butterfly butterflies dont live in here, in the ghetto. Pavel Friedman wrote these words 20 days before he died in the ghetto of Terezin concentration camp. Pavel describes the horrors of living in the Nazi concentration camp from a young persons perspective . Of the 15,000 children who passed through Terezin, the usual stop before the Auschwitz death camp, fewer than 100 remained to tell of the horrors.
We as Jews have been given the responsibility never to forget what the Nazis did to our community. With that responsibility has come the great challenge to preserve the memory of each victim. Yet is it enough to construct a single memorial? Is it enough to only remember those victims who have someone alive to tell their story? The answer is a simple no. Each person who was killed in the Holocaust had a unique story, a unique life. And many may not have had families who survived to tell their stories. Among those who did survive, many have made it their work to find new and innovative methods to preserve the memory of each individual victim.
The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) has created a project for children from across the world to decorate butterflies which will be donated to a Holocaust museum in Israel. NFTY has partnered with IRAC on this project, so that NFTY-ites can create a powerful memorial to the million-and-a-half children who were lost in the Holocaust. In addition, Holocaust Museum Houston has launched a similar project, creating an exhibit that will serve as a memorial to the children whose lives were cut short.
Using Pavel Friedmans words as inspiration, both projects plan to collect 1.5 million butterflies, representing the 1.5 million children who perished. The museums goal is to create an exhibit that is not only breathtaking, but also inspiring, because each butterfly does not symbolize a victim, but rather the hopes, dreams, fears, and courage of a child. Adults and children alike have been encouraged to create butterflies, and the project has served as a lesson and activity for even the youngest of children.
As Jews we have the responsibility not only to spread justice around the world, but also to remember those who have fallen as victims to the hatred around us. The beauty of this project is that it remembers the children not as victims but as unique and inspiring heroes.
Related Questions How was the poem The Butterfly found? The children of the Terezin concentration camp wrote and drew many pictures as an expression of their emotions during the horrific time period in which they lived. Art has been found even in the death camps and the stories of the Holocaust have been preserved through the victims efforts to leave a message behind for the world to see.
What else can I do to help remember the victims of the Holocaust? Anything from writing in their memory to educating yourself and others about the horrors can serve to preserve the victims lives. It has been the mission of museums not to clump the victims as one, but rather to remember victims individually so that each person is remembered and not just a number.
Taking Action Make a Butterfly You can make these butterflies to help accomplish the goal of Holocaust Museum Houston and IRAC and create an event for your youth group or congregation that helps to educate the community on the Holocaust. Follow the links below for the template to decorate butterflies for the IRAC project and instructions to send unique and handmade butterflies for Holocaust Museum Houston.
Create a Unique Memorial You can brainstorm to create your own memorial within your city to honor victims. This can be an art project or a statue or a donation in the memory of those who perished.
Mindy Michaels was born in Houston, TX. Her Jewish community is the Northwest Houston Chavurah and she is also a member of Temple Emanuel in Beaumont, TX. She is president of NFTY-TOR and has participated in both the summer NFTY Ldor Vdor /Exodus trip to Israel and the EIE semester in Israel trip. She has also spent 10 summers at the URJs Greene Family Camp. She plans to attend George Washington University in the fall and will be studying international affairs with a concentration in Middle Eastern studies.