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Hillel Butterfly Project draws to a close after remembering 1.5 million children who died during Holocaust

Hillel+building+front+entrance+including+the+butterfly+project+display+on+February+4th+2017
Michelle Tomaszkowicz

Hillel building front entrance including the butterfly project display on February 4th 2017

Vibrant, multicolored butterflies have fluttered above the UA’s Hillel Foundation entryway since April 2015, in memory of the 1.5 million children who were murdered during the Holocaust.

Each butterfly is etched with the name of a child who perished. Hillel Executive Director Michelle Blumenberg said they were intentionally threaded back-to-back “so that no child is left alone.”  

The mirrors that separate every butterfly pair captures sunlight, creating a display of dancing reflections to highlight the slain children they represent.

The Butterfly Project, which originated in San Diego, is recognized worldwide.

According to the project’s Co-founder and Executive Director Cheryl Price, almost 150,000 butterfly installations were formed in 2016 within communities across the U.S., Israel, Mexico, Poland, Australia, Czech Republic, Canada and Argentina.

RELATED: UA community honors Holocaust victims

The original founders established the nonprofit organization because they were inspired by Pavel Friedman’s poem “The Butterfly.” 

Friedman wrote the poem in 1942 as an inmate at the Theresienstadt concentration camp during World War II.  He was later transported to Auschwitz and killed.

This global education and arts program came to Tucson in 2013 when Amy Gould, The Butterfly Project’s director of Tucson initiatives, moved to the city.

Gould first learned about the nonprofit organization while working in Charlotte, North Carolina.  She then traveled to The Butterfly Project’s headquarters to learn more about it.  

After spending time in San Diego, Gould and her family relocated, connected with the Hillel Center and started The Butterfly Trail.

For the past four years, university students have painted around 2,600 ceramic butterflies on the UA Mall during annual Holocaust Vigils.  These butterflies are shared among seven Jewish and non-Jewish agencies which create The Butterfly Trail.

RELATED: UA Hillel Center holds Pride Shabbat to welcome Jewish LGBTQ community in celebrating religion and sexuality

“The idea is that it isn’t just Jewish locations because the idea of ‘never again’ and ‘tolerance’ … is about the community at large,” Blumenberg said.

The butterfly memorials at Hillel, the Holocaust History Center, Tucson Jewish Community Center, Tucson Children’s Museum, Tucson Medical Center, Congregation Chaverim and Tucson Botanical Gardens are now complete.

“We are so proud of Tucson and happy that, after much hard work and generosity from the Gould family and others, that The Butterfly Project is a jewel in your community,” Price said in an email interview. “In so many ways, teaching about the Holocaust in a deeply personal and meaningful way to youth of all backgrounds, uplifting the Holocaust survivors with its messages of remembrance and hope.”

Together, the sites symbolize courage, unity and love.

As the program in Tucson ends, The Butterfly Project’s mission to honor Holocaust victims, promote awareness against hate and incite peace and compassion continues.

“We all have to stand up in cases of prejudice and intolerance, remember and hope for a future of change,” Blumenberg said.


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