Today, anyone who enters the Lory Student Center Theater and looks at the stage will see a pile of shoes of all kinds. But those shoes are not just soles and laces –/each represents the lives of those who were killed during the Holocaust.
Inspired by the International Holocaust Shoe Project, established by Alan Morawiec in 2000, the Students for Holocaust Awareness and the Hillel Center will pile hundreds of locally donated shoes in the theater as part of Holocaust Awareness Week.
“Each pair of shoes represents thousands of people who died in the Holocaust,” said Josh Samet, director of the CSU Hillel Center. “The shoes represent the Holocaust but also the genocides today.”
Wanting to contribute to the week’s impact, the university groups spent the past month collecting shoes throughout the community, placing donation boxes in all 50 schools in the Poudre School District, in each residence hall and at the CSU Hillel Center.
No one knows how many shoes have been donated, but Samet said the Hillel location alone has 70 pairs. He also said one school in the Poudre School District set a goal of 600 shoes. Whether or not they reached that goal has yet to be determined.
Donated shoes will be given to the Denver Rescue Mission, an organization that provides food, clothing and more to less fortunate people.
“The shoes are going to people who are affected by the economy — people without shoes, homes, jobs .” Samet said. “Just to enable somebody, even with a used pair of shoes — anything we can do to help.”
Those at the mission echoed Samet’s sentiments.
“We are very excited, thrilled and thankful for the donations; they will help many homeless and low-income men, women and children we serve,” said Devany Severin, Denver Rescue Mission Spokesperson.
This is the first time the Holocaust Shoe Project will be held at CSU, and the creator of the original shoe project, Alan Morawiec, will speak tonight in the theater.
Morawiec is the son of Chaim Baruch Morawiec, a Holocaust survivor who was one of only two Jews who survived attacks on Kobryn, Poland after World War II.
The idea for the Holocaust Shoe Project stemmed from the story of when allied forces liberated the concentration camps and found thousands of piles of shoes that used to belong to prisoners, according to http://holocaustshoeproject.org.
To date, organizations working with the HSP have collected almost 29,000 shoes.
Samet said the Morawiec wanted the shoes to be donated to an organization that would not resell the shoes but one that would donate them to locals in need.
Jenny Ross, who has been in contact with Morawiec, said the Students for Holocaust Awareness and the Hillel Center wanted to do something that would not only raise awareness but would also benefit the community.
“We wanted to do something that would help make an impact in the community,” she said.
The LSC Theater will be open at 5 p.m. for any additional donations before Morawiec speaks at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Staff writer Scott Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.