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Halls of Remembrance: Students win award for bio-pic of Sigmund Rolat of the North American Council of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews

New Milford—Students at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County (SSDS) moved quietly through the hallways last week, mindful of the solemnity of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Dressed in black and white, Lower School students (3rd-5th Grades) lit Yahrzeit candles, listened to tuneful recitations of Yizkor and El Maleh Rachamim and concluded commemorating the day with a spirited rendition of Hatikvah.

In the 1st-4th Grades, Schechter involves students in Holocaust Readiness programs. Through literature and classroom discussions, younger students begin to learn concepts and values that will later be applied to their Holocaust Studies.

“Before our children can comprehend the magnitude of the Shoah, before they begin to understand the loss, we want them to learn about and appreciate the vibrant Jewish life that existed beforehand, filled with family, learning, and a rich and diverse culture,” says Beryl Bresgi, Schechter’s coordinator of Holocaust studies. Beginning in 5th grade, students read literature related to the Holocaust and participate in an annual Heritage Fair in which students share family artifacts in a museum they create at the school.

Schechter’s Middle School Holocaust Studies program not only teaches the history behind the Holocaust, but exposes children to individual stories and eye-witness accounts, helping them make personal connections with the victims, survivors, and their families.

This philosophy was strikingly clear as Middle School students watched the film, “Generations of the Shoah: The Sigmund A. Rolat Story”, a documentary produced and directed by former Schechter students, Ben and Adam Danzger, with assistance from their younger brother, Dan, who is currently a seventh-grader at SSDS. The film chronicles the life, strength, and survival of Sigmund Rolat, father of SSDS Parent, Samantha Asulin, and grandfather of Henry (7th grade) and Maya (2nd Grade).

Mr. Rolat’s message to students about the importance of preserving the memories of Jewish life in Europe prior to the war and of tolerance was strong and clear—one Mr. Rolat has taken very seriously.

This Friday, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Schechter’s Head of School, Ruth Gafni, will travel to Poland to attend the soft opening of The Museum of the History of the Polish Jews which will house $40 million worth of interactive exhibits tracing the long intertwined history of Jews and Poland when it formally opens in October 2013, thanks in part to Mr. Rolat’s vision and support.

Schechter Alumnus, Josh Kauderer (a 2011 SSDS graduate), along with Ben and Adam Danzger, garnered top honors for their filmmaking efforts at this year’s Kaplen JCC on the Palisades annual Yom HaShoah Commemoration , when they received first and second place respectively in the Abe Oster Holocaust Remembrance Award contest. The contest, established in 2004 to honor the memory of Bergen County resident Abe Oster, encourages high school students to study the Holocaust through various artistic media and to develop an understanding of its implications.

Currently a 10th Grader at The Fieldston Ethical Culture School, Josh Kauderer received first place in the contest. His film, “Then and Now – Could History Repeat Itself?” uses video footage, photos and newspaper cartoons from the 1930s to depict European anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust. It then juxtaposes those images with current video footage, newspaper cartoons, and internet sources to demonstrate the potential dangers of history repeating itself.

Ben and Adam Danzger, now students at Tenafly High School, received second place in the competition for their latest documentary, “Generations of the Shoah: The Sigmund A. Rolat Story,” which is the first in a series of three documentaries they plan to produce. Each documentary will feature interviews with survivors as well as second and third generations. The multi-generational theme reinforces the goal of sharing multi-generational stories, serving as a powerful reminder of the Nazis’ failed attempt to wipe out the Jewish people.

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