Over a year ago, a teacher and a group of students came forward with an idea to host a comprehensive Genocide Awareness Day at Schreiber High School to raise the collective consciousness of the school community of such ravages in history and today. The program occurred on Wednesday, May 21 and featured dozens of programs and speakers throughout the school day.
Organized by social studies teacher Eric Begun and a group of four students, Rachel Merker, Maddie Mirzoeff, Erin Szulman, and Nathan Zeplowitz, the program was designed to "honor those whose lives have been lost due to the ignorance and hatred of others." The committee spent the last year devoted to securing a wide range of speakers and activities for the school and ensuring that the day would be informative and rich with interactive conversations. The committee indicated that, "Our mission is to educate students about the atrocities that intolerance can lead to and we hope students learn from the stories that they will hear."
In addition to Mr. Begun and the Student Coordinating Committee listed above, The Brotherhood of Community Synagogue contributed generously to the success of this program and was committed to assisting from the inception of the idea. Special thanks also is offered to Mr. Stan Ronell who helped to make the day possible by his many connections and networks.
Guest speakers for the day included: Gloria Glantz, Holocaust survivor; Aaron Morgan and Leonard Meiselman, Holocaust artists; Frank and Leo Ullman, Holocaust survivors; Irv Roth, Holocaust survivor; Karl Schapiro, Holocaust survivor; Zelda Polofsky, Holocaust survivor; Zelik Sander, Holocaust survivor; Agnes Adachi, associate of Raoul Wallenberg who arranged the rescue of about 100,000 Jews in Budapest, Hungary in 1944; David Gewirtzman, Holocaust survivor; Kurt Goldberger, Holocaust survivor; Eva Ebin, Holocaust survivor; Hy Horowitz, liberator; Fred Margulies, Holocaust survivor; Stephen Herz, poet; Anita Schorr, Holocaust survivor; Jack and Ina Polak, Holocaust survivors and authors of co-written book entitled Steal A Pencil For Me, also the name of a documentary; Esther Geizhals, Holocaust survivor; Stan Ronell, Holocaust survivor; Michael Kuch and James Lual, Lost Boys of Sudan; Gisele Warshawsky, Holocaust survivor; Gunther Lawrence, Holocaust activist; Nathan Offen, Holocaust survivor; Margaret Tellalian-Kyrokostas, Holocaust activist; and Eddie Weinstein, Holocaust activist.
In addition to the speakers who presented programs throughout the day, a discussion of "Students' Role in Genocide Prevention" took place. A candle-lighting ceremony in the Schreiber Commons was held to celebrate the lives of those people who perished in the Nazi Holocaust. Many Schreiber students wrote poems and tributes and the art department sponsored several contests that led to awards being given.
From the beginning stages of planning this day of remembrance, it was clear that current students will be the last generation to be able to hear directly from Nazi Holocaust survivors. Mr. Jay Lewis, Schreiber principal, said: "One of the main reasons that the program was developed is that history repeats itself. Rather than learning from the atrocities and tragedies of earlier periods in the history of the world, we seem determined to set ourselves up for similar horrors time after time. We should insist that the inhumanity that has been shown toward groups of people stop. One of the best ways to move the tides of change in that direction is to become fully educated about events of the past."
The Genocide Awareness Day on May 21 was a resounding success and has sparked many positive conversations about the history of genocides and how to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again. Many students were moved by the events of this day and could be heard to say that they would be part of speaking up against and taking actions to prevent future horrors.
Mr. Bryan Frank, social studies department chair, said, "It is the responsibility of educators and society to inform the next generation about these atrocities and make sure that the victims are never forgotten."
Schreiber High School thanks the many students, faculty members, and speakers who made this program successful.