Emory Report
December 12, 2005
Volume 58, Number 14


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December 12 , 2005
AIDS quilt draws 1,000 to Quadrangle

BY eric rangus

To mark World AIDS Day on Thursday, Dec. 1, the Quadrangle hosted one of the largest displays of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever to take place in Atlanta.

More than 400 panels of the quilt, which totals more than 45,000 panels and weighs some 54 tons, were spread out on the Quad as a succession of readers stepped to a podium and recited names of people who have passed away from the disease.

“Quilt on the Quad” was the University’s centerpiece event of AIDS Awareness Week, a campus-wide remembrance for which Volunteer Emory was the lead sponsor. Emory Hillel was the lead sponsor for Quilt on the Quad.

In addition to the quilt, many campus organizations, as well as others from outside Emory, set up information tables around the Quadrangle. The week also included guest speakers, cultural and information events and outreach work.

Following an opening ceremony that featured comments from Rollins School of Public Health Dean Jim Curran and several others, faculty, staff and students from across campus took turns reading names from the quilt. They also were invited to add names of anyone they knew who succumbed to the disease. Those names were read for more than four hours.

Emory Hillel Director Michael Rabkin said one reader told him he could feel not only energy emanating from the panels but souls rising from the quilt as the names were read.

“There were people who had never seen the quilt before who were moved to tears when they saw it,” he said. “It’s touching to hear stories of how the quilt affected people.”

According to Rabkin, approximately 1,000 members of the community passed through the Quadrangle during the event and paused to examine the quilt. Some looked at just a handful of panels, while others wound their way throughout the display, contemplating each of the colorful squares. Few visitors left dry-eyed.

The effort to bring the AIDS quilt to Emory (the Quad event was not the first time a portion of the quilt has been displayed on campus, but this was the largest display to date) began earlier this year. A group from Emory Hillel called the Tritt Social Justice Force had taken an outreach trip to Minsk, Russia, which inspired them to take on a project closer to home.

The students contacted the Atlanta-based NAMES Project Foundation, which is caretaker of the quilt. With the assistance of campus organizations such as the Office of Residence Life, the Quilt on the Quad display was organized. In all, the quilt memorializes some 88,000 people from around the world who have died of AIDS.

Hillel’s outreach efforts will not end with the conclusion of AIDS Awareness Week. “I’ve already had students come to me who want to do something,” Rabkin said. “They have made this a priority. It is a refection of Jewish [teaching] that to save a life is to save the world.”

In response, Rabkin said Emory Hillel is working to create JHEALTH, an education, advocacy and awareness group that could connect Hillel and the wider Emory Jewish community to health organizations around Emory and Atlanta.