Yom HaShoah was observed at Yeshiva Har Torah at all grade levels in a most meaningful way. In keeping with the age-appropriate philosophy of Holocaust education, students in grades 1—4 focused on the concept of memories and shared their own personal memories. At morning lineup, a memorial candle was lit, followed by a short discussion of the significance of the day. Students in grade five delved deeper into the concept of memories and learned about “bystanders and upstanders” as it pertained to the beginnings of the Nazi persecution. They especially focused on the book-burnings and attempts to destroy ideas which ultimately led to the attempt to destroy the Jewish people. Sixth-graders did group research projects on the vibrant, flourishing pre-war Jewish communities in order to gain a better understanding of what we lost.
The parents of the fifth-graders were invited to a readers’ theater in each of the fifth-grade classrooms, which described the book-burnings and the American response. Grades five and six and the fifth-grade parents then attended a special commemoration in the beismidrash which included words of welcome by Rabbi Menchel, the singing of two moving songs by fifth-graders, the lighting of six memorial candles by survivors Mrs. Ruth Canter, grandmother of Matthew and Jeremy Rosen; Mr. Charles Altholtz, grandfather of Yosaif and Yitzchak Scmeidler; and Mr. Alex Konstantyn, guest speaker. Mr. Konstantyn shared his story as child survivor who, together with his courageous mother, was forced to run and hide throughout the war years until he was able to move to Israel and rebuild his life. Mr. Konstantyn expressed his pride in being Jewish, his gratitude to Hashem, and his sense of victory and satisfaction that Jewish children, including his own two children and his eight grandchildren are living lives of Torah and mitzvos.
Fourth- through eighth-graders, using stories, videos, and sh’eilos u’teshuvos, discussed the meaning of spiritual resistance to inspire them to strive for greater commitment to Torah life and learning, even in the most difficult and challenging circumstances.
Seventh- and eighth-graders were privileged to meet with Mr. Irving Roth, a child survivor of the ghetto, concentration camps, and the death march. In response to a student’s question as to whether he ever lost his belief in Gâ€‘d, Mr. Roth responded, “I lost my belief in man. Hashem has given everyone free will and we have to always choose to do the right thing.” He left the students with two requests. He asked them to always be willing to stand up for what is right and to never stand by idly when evil is being perpetrated. He reminded them that they are the last generation to be privileged to hear from an eyewitness and he implored them to be the surrogate eyewitnesses to their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
The lobby displays the “Lost Communities” posters made by sixth-graders and the art installation portraying the book-burning made by fifth-graders.
Special thanks to Rabbi Silverman and Mrs. Hollander for coordinating the two commemorations, to fifth-grade teachers Ms. Brander, Ms. Gomes, and Mrs. Lermer, sixth-grade social studies teacher Mrs. Loebenstein, music teacher Mrs. Daitchman, and art teacher Mrs. Lax.