Mitzvah project: daffodils memorializing children of the Holocaust
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Mitzvah project: daffodils memorializing children of the Holocaust

The Diamond family. Left to right, Jesse, Jon, Reese, Pam, and Ethan.
The Diamond family. Left to right, Jesse, Jon, Reese, Pam, and Ethan.

Come spring, there’ll be a riot of yellow, star-shaped flowers heralding rebirth, renewal, and remembrance thanks to 13-year-old Reese Diamond, who, along with family and friends, recently planted 300 daffodil bulbs outside her family’s synagogue, Glen Rock Jewish Center.

Reese, whose bat mitzvah is scheduled for December 18, has taken on the planting task as her mitzvah project. In doing so she has joined The Daffodil Project, which aspires to build a worldwide living Holocaust memorial by planting 1.5 million daffodils in memory of the 1.5 million children killed in the Shoah.

“This project really is meaningful for me because of the kids who died in the Holocaust,” said Reese, an eighth grader at Glen Rock Middle School. “I’m a kid, and these kids who died, never got a chance to live out their lives. It’s a memorial to them.”

The Daffodil Project, which started in Atlanta Georgia in 2010 with the planting of 1,800 daffodils, has engaged thousands of people at more than 230 locations around the world who have planted 600,000 flowers to date. The symbolism of the daffodil is apparent. The shape and color of the flowers are representative of the yellow stars that the Jewish people were forced to wear during the Holocaust. Yellow is also the color of remembrance. And daffodils are among the first flowers to burst through the thawed and barren earth in early spring, ushering in a new season of hope and life.

“Daffodils represent our poignant hope for the future,” according to the organization. “They are resilient and return with a burst of color each spring, signifying hope, renewal and beauty. The daffodils also honor those who survived the Holocaust and went on to build new lives after this dark and difficult period.”

The Daffodil Project is an initiative of Am Yisrael Chai, a nonprofit Holocaust Education and Genocide Awareness Organization. Am Yisrael Chai has developed the Daffodil Project, a worldwide project empowering Holocaust Education.

The Diamond family and friends who helped plant daffodil bulbs at the Glen Rock Jewish Center

Jon Diamond, Reese’s father, said his daughter’s mitzvah project was fitting in several ways. It is very meaningful as a mark of remembrance of the children who perished in the Holocaust. It is symbolic of hope for the future. And it means much to the Diamond family and its present connection to the synagogue. The planting took place on a plot of land in front of the circle driveway at Glen Rock Jewish Center, which has been at the fulcrum of the Diamond family’s Jewish life since moving to Glen Rock more than a decade ago.

“Reese attended the nursery school there and took her bat mitzvah lessons there,” said Jon. “It’s a wonderful synagogue and community.”

The day of the planting, an unseasonably warm Sunday in early October, drew many to the Glen Rock Jewish Center to take part in the effort to get the bulbs in to the ground – a task that needed to be completed in October to ensure spring’s bloom.

In addition to the immediate family — Reese, Jon, mother, Pam, brothers Ethan, 15, and Jesse, 10 —Reese’s grandparents, Mark and Susan Diamond, and Bonnie and Paul Boltax, Reese’s friends, community members, and many others were on hand for the big event, rolling up their sleeves and getting in the dirt.

“It was really a great day,” said Jon.

The project has also prompted Pam Diamond to plumb into her family’s history. She has discovered – and is continuing her research – that she had family that died in the Holocaust.

Getting down in the dirt for the daffodil planting

“I think I knew that I had family in the Holocaust, but this gave me more of a personal connection” and impetus to learn more about her own family history, Pam said. “When my research is finished, and the daffodils are in bloom, we would like to put up a plaque at the site.”

In the meantime, there is much to look forward to, said Reese, the bat mitzvah girl.

There is her upcoming bat mitzvah at the Glen Rock Jewish Center.

Then there is the party afterwards.

And, of course, there are the daffodils.

“I can’t wait and am very excited about their blooming in the spring,” Reese said.

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