“To listen to a witness is to become a witness.”
—Elie Wiesel

This essay contest is a tribute to Israel “Izzy” Arbeiter, a Holocaust survivor and lifelong rights activist who lost several family members in the Holocaust. He is a past president of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston. Students in grades 6-12 are invited to write a 400-800 word essay on the following topic.

When World War II ended, many Holocaust survivors were liberated from concentration camps by Russian, British or American soldiers. Liberation means “the action of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery or oppression.” For both the survivors and liberators, the reality proved to be much more complex. The phrase “Return to Life” is often used in connection with the period immediately following liberation.

Seventy-five years have passed since the Holocaust; however, recent studies suggest that the call to “never forget” the horrors of the Holocaust may be fading while incidents of racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia (fear of people unlike yourself) are rising.

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security reported that hate crimes in Massachusetts increased by almost 10% to a 10-year high in 2017. This represented the highest number of hate crimes in a decade and the third consecutive year of increasing hate crimes. Hate crimes today continue to be a growing concern all around the world.

  • How do you think survivors felt after learning the war was over? What do you think their hopes and fears were?
  • What do you imagine were some of the thoughts and emotions the liberators experienced?
  • After hearing survivors and liberators talk about liberation, how does it inspire you to take more action to combat antisemitism, hatred, racism and bigotry now?
  • What do you think you can do to make a change in the direction of the rise of antisemitism and acts of hate in our community?Essays will be judged on originality, knowledge, style and depth.


Essay contest winners will receive educational scholarships, a trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and be awarded at Greater Boston’s Jewish community commemoration of Yom HaShoah on April 19.

Please submit essays in Word documents only (no Google Docs) along with your name, address, phone number, email, birthday, teacher, grade and school to Ellen Kaye at ekaye@jcrcboston.org. Essay finalists will be notified by March 30, 2020.

Find more information and resources here.

In partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Facing History and Ourselves, the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston and many generous donors.

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