Plans for the Holocaust Memorial to be built on the Teaneck Municipal Green were granted final approval by the Teaneck Township Council last week. The outline is to allow space for two monuments in different sections, one memorializing the Holocaust and the other for enslaved Africans. Both will have the same allocations in their respective sections. The proposal presented to the Council states that each monument would be a maximum of 35x35 feet with surrounding walls no taller than four feet. Each center structure will be at most 10 feet tall.

Mr. Alan M. Hantman, FAIA, the 10th Architect of the Capitol appointed by President Clinton, has developed the memorial plans. Hantman lived in Teaneck for 25 years and currently resides with his wife in Fort Lee. In his design, Hantman focused on how to incorporate the Holocaust Memorial with the existing World War II Memorial, while allotting a balanced area for a memorial to commemorate enslaved Africans. The proposed concept creates a sense of unity and harmony, reinforcing the importance of cultural tolerance.

The Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee, a division of the Jewish Community Council of Teaneck, was formed to perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust and assure that the memories of the six million Jews who perished will never be forgotten. In collaboration with Mr. Hantman’s design, the committee’s vision for the memorial comprises two goals. The first is to memorialize those who died in the Holocaust. The second is to educate people of all ages about the horrors that defined the Holocaust. “The objective is not just to have a sculpture on the green, but rather a place where people can come together to discuss the Holocaust and reflect on what it was about,” Mr. Hantman told the Jewish Link.

The outer perimeter of the memorial will be adorned with stones that can be inscribed with names of those killed in the Holocaust for about $360 each. Larger sponsorship opportunities will be available as well. Funds raised will help support the project as well as assist in maintaining the memorial.

There is also a large educational component involved in the production of this memorial. Architecturally, the plan is designed to have benches surrounding the monument that feature a reading rail containing educational material. This will be an interactive website that will allow visitors to access a wealth of information while at different parts of the memorial through an app that can be downloaded to a phone or tablet. Creating a video archive of local survivors is being considered. Testimonials from actual survivors or family members living locally will offer a unique appeal to the exhibit, fostering a feeling of closeness among community members. Also in discussion is the potential to create a synergy with the Teaneck Library, just steps away, so that visiting groups can go into the library after touring the memorial and gain a greater understanding about the Holocaust.

Committees for both the Holocaust Memorial and the Enslaved Africans Memorial emphasized the mutual priority of enhancing the importance and stature of the Municipal Green. “This is an effort to create a sacred space and give honor to the municipal green,” Councilman Alan Sohn said. “These memorials provide an opportunity to residents of Teaneck to learn about the events of our history.”

Council members as a whole commended both groups for working in such a unified manner to achieve something so meaningful. “The objective is to have these two memorials work together in a way that puts Teaneck on the multicultural map again,” added Councilman Henry Pruitt.

As she prepared to announce a ceremonial vote, Mayor Lizette Parker said, “Approval for this Memorial Plan is a long time in coming and I am happy it is coming to fruition.” All council members voted unanimously in favor of approving plans for the memorial project.

Approval of plans to proceed with the construction of the memorial comes just weeks prior to Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Steve Fox, Co-Chair of the Holocaust Commemoration Committee expressed to the Jewish Link, “The Township took a major step in working with us to create our Holocaust Memorial on the Municipal Green along with the group who will be memorializing the enslaved Africans. We hope that these exhibits not only remember those who died but serve as an educational beacon in the community where young and old can learn about these tragedies and appreciate the importance of tolerance and brotherhood. We plan to make our memorial educationally stimulating and emotionally meaningful and look forward to communal support in making this a reality.”

Bruce Prince, co-chair of The Holocaust Committee, conveyed his immense gratitude to those who have helped make this a reality. “The Holocaust Memorial Committee has been working for over three years to provide a place to pay homage of those lost in the Holocaust. Its intention is to continue to tell the story that otherwise may be lost, as the numbers of survivors diminish. The process of creating and building such a memorial and education center has been arduous. Our committee has begun working with the African American Enslavement committee and both groups will be able to tell their stories on the Municipal Town Green, with independent structures and education facilities. Representing the two largest ethnic populations, accounting for 40 percent Jewish population and 26 percent of African Americans, it is fitting that such a collective tell both stories.

“Having received unanimous support from the Teaneck Town Council, we are all excited about the next steps,” said Prince.

By Andrea Nissel