ATLANTIC CITY - The Boardwalk between New York and Kentucky Avenues in this gambling resort - near a condo high-rise, an amusement pier, and a row of shops - may seem an unlikely place for a Holocaust memorial.
But if the planned monument causes even a fraction of the 10 million people who stroll by each year to reflect on the horror and its consequence to mankind, it is exactly where it should be, said Rabbi Gordon Geller of Temple Emeth Shalom in Margate, founder and president of Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial Inc.
"You have to go where the people are," he said of the 60-foot stretch of walkway donated over the summer by the Atlantic City Council. "You have to be where people can have the opportunity to take the time to think about the message."
Geller was struck by his organization's good fortune when the nonprofit gathered for a celebratory reception last month at the restored Carnegie Library Center. Behind the building on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, in the heart of the city, he noticed the lovely - but mostly forgotten - Civil Rights Garden.
The Boardwalk site, which is 40 feet deep and near a pavilion, affords "an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to the multitudes," he said. "If it was off the beaten path, unfortunately like the Civil Rights Garden, it wouldn't get as much attention."
Shaya Ben Yehuda, managing director of Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust exhibition center in Jerusalem, is also enthusiastic about the Atlantic City memorial, Geller said. Its prominent location will allow it to "flourish and be recognized" internationally, Ben Yehuda told him.
What form the memorial will take is unknown, except that it will not be a museum. The foundation is holding an online competition for a design that will be judged by architectural and design professionals and Holocaust scholars.
The group's Web site (www.acbhm.org) advises applicants that "the requirements for the memorial and how it occupies the site are as unconstrained as possible."
Participants "are encouraged to contemplate the meaning of the Holocaust and genocide in our lives today and to invent a fitting design for this time and this place."
Since the competition was launched last month, Geller said, proposals have arrived from the United States, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere in Asia.
The jury will be led by Paul Winkler, executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, who has been involved with Holocaust education for more than 35 years and who has coordinated Holocaust and genocide education efforts in New Jersey schools.
Others on the panel are Daniel Libeskind, selected in 2003 as the master planner for redevelopment of the World Trade Center site in New York City; architect Richard Meier, who designed the Getty Center in Los Angeles; and architect Wendy Evans Joseph, who played a significant role in the design of the Holocaust Museum in Washington.
Geller's group expects to receive more than 600 entries before the deadline March 15. Six finalists will win $2,500 each to build a model from their design. The models will be exhibited in Atlantic City for about two months before a winner is chosen in August. The winner will get $25,000.
It is uncertain what the construction budget will be. "That will all depend on the winning design," Geller said. Fund-raising will begin after a design is selected.
The group hopes to open the memorial by early fall 2012.