UWF in the Community

UWF hosts first Holocaust Remembrance Event

The University of West Florida hosted the first annual Holocaust Remembrance Event featuring Dr. Leon Chameides, a Holocaust survivor, on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in the Rolfs Music Hall at the Center for Fine & Performing Arts.

The purpose of the event was to honor those who perished in the Holocaust, remind students and community members about the harm associated with hate and antisemitism and inspire attendees to enact change proactively.

The event included a memorial name reading, a candle lighting ceremony and a musical interlude by UWF Strings. The Holocaust Remembrance Event was presented collaboratively by UWF’s College of Education and Professional Studies, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Affairs, the Pensacola Jewish Federation, Temple Beth El of Pensacola, B’nai Israel Synagogue Pensacola and Chabad of Pensacola.

UWF Administration and Law Department chair and professor Dr. Gil Fried said it is essential to share the stories of the Holocaust with students so they can create a future without such atrocities. 

“The uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States and around the world is a reminder that hating Jews is not a thing of the past, but very much part of the present,” Fried said. “Those who stand by and don’t say anything are complicit with spreading hatred. That is why we held this event. We want to be part of the solution.”

Son of a chief rabbi, Chameides was born in Katowice, Poland on June 24, 1935. With the German invasion in 1941, his parents hid Chameides and his brother Herbert in two separate monasteries where they were given new identities, taught to pass as Christian children and endured two years hiding in an orphanage in the Ukraine. After losing his parents and grandparents during World War II and following liberation by Russia, he journeyed to England and eventually immigrated to the United States where he attended medical school and became one of the foremost pediatric heart specialists in the world. Chameides is Emeritus Director of Pediatric Cardiology at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, a vocal advocate for the Jewish community and has authored three books.

“Sharing my story with communities like the University of West Florida has been an important part of my life’s work,“ Chameides said. “If we want to build a peaceful and harmonious world, we must know and understand the mistakes we made in the past.”

For more information about the University of West Florida, visit uwf.edu.