Syosset School Answers Hate With Holocaust Play

By Alan Zeitlin

When Gabrielle Bieder saw the pictures on social media, she was horrified. The 16-year-old junior at Syosset High School with several family members who were murdered in the Holocaust, couldn’t believe that her school building had been vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.

“It was truly upsetting to see something like that happen” she said of the incident which took place at the end of August. “You’d never think it could happen here. We live in an affluent area that is safe. I couldn’t help but feel angry but more than that, it was frightening.”

Because the names of Jewish teachers at the school were mentioned in the graffiti, the school believes the masked culprits were students, she said. When it came to decide what to do for the school play, there were a few choices.

But the events on the ground and in the world made the choice and easy one. They selected “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” a play about Jewish children in Terezin.

“Our teacher spoke with us and it was decided that there’s no other show we should be doing,” she said. “It’s a message that needs to be heard.”

Bieder will star as Irena Synkova, a teacher who tried to give the children hope by encouraging them to write poems, draw and paint, despite living in horrific conditions where death was at the doorstep. Less than 150 of the 15,000 children survived Terezin, which was about 30 miles south of Prague.

Bieder said the play is all the more timely with examples of anti-Semitism in the news with events from around the world as well as in America.

As for her own school, she said there are seniors who know who are responsible for the anti-Semitic graffiti but will not give them up. She said she hopes someone will come forward but knows there are no guarantees.

“Whoever did it needs to know what they did was wrong,” she said.

Bieder went on a trip to Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove and said there were several images made an impact on her, including one of a child taken being taken away. A portion of the proceeds of the play will be donated to the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance center of Nassau County.

Bieder’s great great grandparents were killed in the Holocaust but her great grandmother was able to escape before it began.

“It’s crazy to think that if she was not able to escape, I wouldn’t be here,” she said.

She is hoping that the play will resonate with the audience.

“The reason I do theater is in some way I hope I touch people’s lives and if I make them think different and feel something, I’m doing my job,” she said. “I just hope each person takes a way a feeling that love is so much more powerful than hate.”


“I Never Saw Another Butterfly”

Syosset High School

70 S. Wood Road

Nov. 16 at 7 (with a post-show Q&A with a Holocaust survivor)

Nov 17 and 18th at 7:30

Tickets are $7


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