July 12, 2024
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Teaneck High School to Hold Kristallnacht Assembly

In the late 1800s, the prophetic, German romantic poet, Heinrich Heine, wrote, “Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.” Kristallnacht, the Night Of Broken Glass, was a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria on November 9-10, 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians. German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues had their windows smashed. Fires were lit, and prayer books, Torah scrolls, artwork and philosophy texts were thrown upon them, and precious buildings were either burned or smashed until unrecognizable.

Pearl Markovitz and Goldie Minkowitz understand the significance of Kristallnacht and communicate that message through an annual assembly for middle and high school students at Teaneck High School.

This year’s event, which will be on November 10, 2015, will feature Reni Hanau, a Jewish citizen of Germany who witnessed Kristallnacht as a five-year-old. She will speak about her experience on that horrific night seventy-seven years ago, though the eyes of a small child, and recount the story of how her family survived and ultimately escaped Nazi Germany. Mrs. Hanau is a docent at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, has spoken widely on this subject, including to the German Counsel in New York. The assembly is restricted to Teaneck High School and middle school students.

Mrs. Markovitz, one of the main organizers of this yearly commemoration, is a former public school teacher in Queens who taught English and Holocaust Studies for eighteen years, using a curriculum that she later learned was written in Teaneck.

“I felt as if I was on a mission—doing God’s work,” says Pearl. She educated multi-ethnic students about the Holocaust. “My course was an elective, so the students were interested and wanted to be there. It was a very positive experience.”

Six years ago, Pearl moved to Teaneck to be closer to her large brood of grandchildren. Although she spends a huge chunk of her time being their Savta, she finds time to volunteer at Teaneck High School—working on various Jewish activities together with math and Holocaust educator, Goldie Minkowitz.

According to Pearl, “Anything that goes on that is Jewish at Teaneck High is under the rubric of Goldie,” including a Jewish Culture Club and The Teaneck High School Holocaust Center.

In the past five years, a great deal has been accomplished in terms of Holocaust Education at Teaneck High School. One notable achievement is there is now a section in the library that features Holocaust literature.

“The principal, Mr. Dennis Heck, has been wonderful about providing us with a beautiful corner and shelves for the collection, which was donated by two local families,” explains Pearl. There is also a sculpture donated by renowned local artist, Dr. Milton Ohring. The sculpture is a memorial to all who were murdered in the killing fields of Poland. It is dedicated in particular to the field near Stryj, Poland, where his grandparents were murdered.

Last year’s Kristallnacht assembly featured two youngsters who started a video production company and videotaped the testimonies of survivors. In other years, various survivors have spoken to groups of three hundred students or more.

By Debby Flancbaum

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