In the Facing History course here at Wilmington High School our students work tirelessly to recognize and combat genocide. Our students recently had the opportunity to enter an annual essay contest held by Holocaust survivor Israel Arbeiter. Two of our students, Erika Johnson and Melanie Flaherty, were among the top ten essay finalists out of more than five hundred entries. Their efforts are admirable and are a shining example of the passion our Facing History students have for genocide awareness and prevention. All of our students’ efforts were recognized by the New England Holocaust Memorial Commemoration Committee as we were invited to attend and participate in Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday May 1, 2011.
In preparation for the ceremony our students designed and decorated rocks to be placed as a permanent installation of the Holocaust Memorial along the Freedom Trail in Boston. In Jewish culture, rocks are traditionally placed on the graves of loved ones to make a lasting representation of their presence. Many of our students had the opportunity to attend the event and represented Wilmington High School as advocates for a genocide-free world.
On this unique occasion our students were able to meet Holocaust survivors and many noted their astonishing resilience in the face of such adversity. Students also had the honor to meet Israel Arbeiter, who graciously agreed to pose for a photograph with our class. Students were elated to meet Arbeiter who has been such an advocate for genocide survivors.
The ceremony consisted of many personal stories of the horrors encountered by Jewish people during the Holocaust and the strength and courage of those who survived. Second and third generation survivors also gathered to share their family’s story and perpetuate the accounts of hope and fortitude. Our students were able to make their own lasting impact on the remembrance of the Holocaust by proceeding through the memorial to place their stones of remembrance.
The overall theme of the ceremony was the education of future generations of the atrocities perpetuated during the Holocaust. There is no doubt that with students like those in our Facing History class, the memories of all six million lives lost and those who survived will endure through generations.
By Lauren Luskin, Social Studies substitute teacher, Wilmington High School