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A Skidmore stone at Babi Yar Sharing the spirit of Skidmore

A Skidmore stone at Babi Yar
by Claire Solomon '10

The first nice morning
last May, I sat by Haupt Pond and realized how long it had been since I had been alone. Coming to Skidmore in the fall, I had plunged headlong into college life, surrounding myself with students, faculty, and staff who challenged, broadened, and strengthened my identity. Although I would not change a thing, at times I was too busy for words. Now, as I sat and watched the ducks glide across the water, I remembered the beauty of silence. I went to the edge of the pond and picked up a stone to put in my bag. And then I walked back to reality, leaving the silence behind.

Three weeks later I stood with that stone in my hand near Kiev, at Babi Yar, the ravine where 100,000 Jews were massacred by the Nazis in 1941–42. With me were 100 Jewish women from the US, Russia, and Ukraine—including, as it happened, Susan Rabinowitz Malloy ’45 and Erica Sonabend Fredericks ’68. Representing Project Kesher, a Jewish women’s organization promoting tolerance and human rights in the former Soviet Union, we had come together to experience Jewish life in Ukraine—to rejoice, reflect, and remember. Babi Yar was just one stop on our weeklong journey.

We had been told to bring a stone to place at the memorial erected at the site, and I had brought my stone from Haupt Pond. I did not think about this choice (a stone was a stone was a stone, wasn’t it?) until we were standing there, everyone clutching their stones. And then I realized that placing that particular bit of rock at Babi Yar was like placing a part of me, and a part of our community, in a space dedicated to remembrance. It was bringing some of the spirit of Skidmore—the noise as well as the silence—to live with the spirit of Babi Yar. As I looked around me, at the women placing their own stones at the foot of the memorial, I felt humbled to be able to share this experience with two different generations of my Skidmore family. Wiping tears from my eyes, I walked back to reality, leaving the silence behind.

Claire Solomon ’10 won a prize last year for an essay she wrote called “Marching with Moses or Staying Southern: Jews in Jackson, Mississippi, during the Civil Rights Movement.”