This year, ADL New England’s Yom HaShoah commemoration examined the role of art in remembrance and education. A panel featuring regional director Robert Trestan, Holocaust survivor Kati Preston, co-founder and director of The Butterfly Project Cheryl Rattner Price and Tufts University professor of theater Barbara Wallace Grossman explored this topic from a number of perspectives.
The Butterfly Project was named for the moving poem by Terezin concentration camp victim Pavel Friedman, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.” Through the experience of reading the story of a child lost in the Holocaust and then painting a butterfly in their memory, students learn about the Holocaust in an impactful way. This year, eighth graders at the Epstein Hillel School and the Hampstead Middle School took part in this project.
Part of the beauty of The Butterfly Project, in addition to teaching people about the Holocaust, is that it reminds people to be grateful for what they have and extend kindness to those in need.
“I urge people to do one kind thing every day,” says Preston, “because you never know what effect it will have on those around you.”
Shortly after this program, the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School hosted an event featuring the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra to display this beautiful collage of butterflies made by students as part of The Butterfly Project. The students also sang part of the opera “Brundibar,” which was performed by the children in the Terezin camp and heard from a survivor of that camp who participated in that performance.
Both these programs showcased the valuable intersection of art and remembrance and the role that art can play in modern education. The Butterfly Project provides a personal means through which they can connect with history and examine their past in a hands-on and creative way. In other words, art allows for the connection between past and present, the understanding between new and old generations and the link between Jewish history and modern education.
Now more than ever, it is important that we do not forget our history; that we teach it to our children and our children’s children. “I’ve always felt the responsibility, both as a Jew and a human being, to really take whatever opportunity I could to really educate the next generation,” says Wallace Grossman.
Art has become a beautiful and impactful way to continue telling these stories and to ensure the proper education of the next generation. Now that the state of Massachusetts mandates Holocaust education, creative and engaging methods such as The Butterfly Project are more important than ever.
“I believe in The Butterfly Project,” says Rattner-Price, “because through the arts is a softer way in.”
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