Monday, March 27, 2023

While the goal of most Yom Hashoah programs is to commemorate and remember the victims and impact of the Holocaust, this year’s Yom Hashoah program at RKYHS sought to engage the students directly and assist them in finding their own, meaningful connections to the day and its objectives.

At the Yom Hashoah commemoration ceremony, students recited poetry in six different languages—English, Russian, Spanish, Polish, Italian, and Hebrew—symbolizing the diversity of the Jewish experience and the fact that the entire Jewish nation was afflicted in some way by the devastation of the Holocaust.

Students were then shown the film entitled ‘Rene and I’, which details the story of Irene Hizme, a twin who was experimented upon by Josef Mengele in Auschwitz. She and her brother, Rene, entered Auschwitz at age six, and were among the 160 twins (out of 3,000) that survived these experiments.

At the conclusion of the video, the students were completely surprised when Irene herself was welcomed in to address the student body. Students were able to ask questions, and were privileged to hear their answers first hand from Irene.

Students prepared a number of different activities to help maintain the appropriate decorum throughout the day. All students wore nametags dedicating their Torah learning, chessed, and davening to a victim of the Holocaust. During their free time, the students wrote the names of these victims down on gold Jewish stars, and hung them on the glass panels facing the RKYHS Holocaust memorial garden. Additionally, students put up a display portraying the average meals that would be provided to a concentration camp inmate, as well as the conditions of the cattle cars that would transport Jews to the concentration camps.

Although every Yom Hashoah program is able to help its participants commemorate the Holocaust, this year’s RKYHS Yom Hashoah program was further impactful by allowing the students to build personal connections with the victims. While it may be easy to forget facts and statistics, a strong connection is something that will certainly not be forgotten.

By Hal Levy

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