By Rachel Askinasi, for the Mitzpeh, @raskinasi
The brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi revived a national tradition April 16 and walked through campus to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day and help make sure that people never forget.
After a four year lull, Alex Spector, president of the AEPi chapter at this university, decided to start the national Walk to Remember again.
“It was the right thing to do,” Spector said.
The sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences went to the AEPi national convention where he learned about the walk. He thought it was strange that he had never heard of it before and thought there was no reason his chapter should not do this program. Spector brought the idea for the walk back to campus and organized it for this Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
More than 150 people came to Fraternity Row to commemorate those lost in the Holocaust and partake in the walk.
“For having not done it in four years and pretty much announcing it two weeks before it happened, I was amazed by the turnout,” Spector said. “I thought it was really impactful, especially for the Jewish community, but definitely for everyone else too.”
He said the idea was to walk throughout campus, so he picked a route that encompassed as much of this university as he thought was necessary to come up with the loop. Beginning at the AEPi house, participants traveled up Chapel Hill, continued clockwise around McKeldin Mall, and ended at the Main Administration Building.
Stephanie Ohnona, a sophomore government and politics major, took part in the walk.
“I think that people just thought about it like, yeah, that’s a sad thing, but they didn’t want to do anything about it,” Ohnona said. “Seeing that a lot of people did show up, it shows people care about it a lot more than you think.”
Spector said that with the recent racist email that was sent by a Kappa Sigma fraternity member not too long ago, there was no better time than now to bring people together to remember one of the most infamous racist incidents the world has seen.
Spector said there were a few participants who were part of Hillel organizations, but 85 percent of the people involved were students in Jewish Greek organizations He said he hopes the walk’s attendees will expand beyond Greek life and beyond Jews in the future.
The rituals Spector read before the walk included poems and readings written by Holocaust survivors like Elie Wiesel, and told stories about the six million Jews who died, which made the walk relevant for AEPi, a nationally-recognized Jewish fraternity. The brothers also read names of people who died in Nazi camps and lit candles to remember them.
Spector said he thought the ritual beforehand was more important than the walk itself.
“People were listening, everyone was quiet, we had the moment of silence,” Spector said. “It was a good way to say, ‘Hey, we’re AEPi, and this is what we’re about.’”
As the participants walked across campus, some bystanders expressed curiosity and confusion because they did not know it was Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“I feel like that should be like a national holiday,” Spector said. “This is us doing something to let people know to remember the Holocaust. We’re not letting anyone forget how bad the Holocaust was and how strong the Jewish people are. We want to try and make it more of a known thing, like Earth Day. Why is Earth Day more important than Holocaust Remembrance Day?”