SAR High School began their commemoration of Yom HaShoah with a school-wide assembly in the auditorium. As students entered the darkened room, members of student council lit up the aisles with candles as a slideshow of pictures from the Shoah appeared across the large screen with “esah einai” playing in the background. Assistant Principal Rabbi Allan Houben introduced the program. He spoke about the impact of losing Elie Wiesel this summer and how it made him realize that we are living through a “transitional generation,” the last to hear firsthand accounts from survivors. He ended by posing the question from Abie Rotenberg’s “Memories:” “What will become of all the memories?” and asking students: Who will be the storytellers? The activists? Who will stand up to those who wish to deny the Holocaust? Who will stand up to anti-semitism and to hate? What responsibility do we bear, both in the future and now, in this transitional generation?
Students then watched a video presentation combining selected scenes from the 2016 film “Denial,” which tells the story of author Deborah Lipstadt and the libel suit brought against her by Holocaust denier Professor David Irving, and excerpts from Oprah Winfrey’s interview of Elie Wiesel in Auschwitz. Following the video presentation, students broke into small discussion groups focused on the responsibility this generation bears to educate ourselves and become advocates; to speak for those who no longer have a voice, to tell their stories and stand up against denial, anti-Semitic rhetoric and acts of hate. Students returned to the auditorium to watch an emotional and memorable performance of Witness Theater featuring the stories of six Shoah survivors acted out by SAR students. The highlight of the program, students brought the stories of these survivors to life in front of the rapt audience. The performance was accompanied by the school choir who added a layer of emotion to some of the most gripping scenes. The program concluded with a candle lighting ceremony and recitation of kel maleh by Principal Rabbi Harcsztark.
Witness Theater is a collaboration of Selfhelp, UJA-Federation, JCC of Mid-Westchester and the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center. This program is generously funded by UJA-Federation of New York through the Community Initiatives for Holocaust Survivors (CIHS), The Jewish Communal Fund (JCF), The Nedivot Fund and the Claims Conference (Conference on the Jewish Material Claims against Germany). Additionally, the program was sponsored by several SAR families who generously contributed.