A Holocaust Memorial Garden Grows in New City
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A Holocaust Memorial Garden Grows in New City

Teen’s Eagle Scout Project Helps Rockland County Synagogue

Zachary Speigel and members of Boy Scout Troup 36 assemble the Jewish Star planter for Nanuet Hebrew Center.
Zachary Speigel and members of Boy Scout Troup 36 assemble the Jewish Star planter for Nanuet Hebrew Center.

It took the dedication and diligence of a Boy Scout to help a New City synagogue realize its dream of creating a Holocaust memorial garden.

Zachary Spiegel is taking his scout oath seriously in helping others by spearheading a long-dreamed about project for the Nanuet Hebrew Center by building a Holocaust memorial garden as part of his Eagle Scout project.

“I’ve been a member of Nanuet Hebrew Center since I was an infant,” said Zachary, a sophomore at Nanuet High School and a member of Boy Scout Troup 36 in Pearl River. “I am doing this towards my Eagle Scout rank.”

Along with his parents, Cindy and Mitch Spiegel of West Nyack, and with the direction of Nanuet Hebrew Center Rabbi Paul Kurland and synagogue president Jeff Schragenheim, the memorial garden will become a reality at the Conservative synagogue. Work already has begun and the garden should be completed by or before Rosh Hashanah.

Zachary’s father, a longtime member of the Rockland County synagogue, has been instrumental in the project. Zachary is hoping to raise the $2,000 for the cost of the garden through donations and has started a GoFundMe page.

Zachary said the memorial garden can be used as a focal point for Holocaust remembrance programming in the future and serve as an area for reflection and commemoration of the six million murdered Jews.

Zachary Spiegel

The teen plans to hold a question and answer session after evening minyan in the near future.

“We have been discussing this for a number of years,” said Rabbi Kurland, who has known the Spiegel family for decades and has an even longer history with Mitch Spiegel.

“We’ve thought of different ways to get the memorial garden done, but it always seemed to fall through the cracks. Putting an Eagle Scout on the project was just perfect because those Eagle Scouts are on top of everything,” said Rabbi Kurland.

The garden itself will consist of a wooden Jewish Star 10 feet by 10 feet. In its six triangles will be a planter for about 25 yellow daffodils, which will bloom fittingly around Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Remembrance Day. In the star’s interior will be red river rocks. There will also be the word zachor — remember.

Rabbi Kurland conceived of the idea of a Jewish star. And Zachary’s older brother, Jonathan, an engineer, helped with the logistics in designing it.

Built on a slope, the Holocaust Memorial Garden will be visible from the synagogue’s classrooms, its minyan room, and will serve as a “place to gather at different times and recognize the power of that space,” said Rabbi Kurland.

“I’m very proud of Zachary and his father for being this creative and dynamic team and for seeing this to its fruition,” said Rabbi Kurland.

For donations and to volunteer: gofundme.com/f/eagle-scout-project-for-holocaust-memorial or contact Zachary at zckspi@gmail.com.

Heidi Mae Bratt is the editor of About Our Children.

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