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Hearing from our students: Excerpts from the 2010 Annual Dinner essays written by high school students

Each year we invite schools from the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area to attend our annual dinner through our New York-New Jersey Schools Dinner Program.  Schools bring 8 juniors or seniors who are studying or who have studied the Holocaust.  We invite a variety of schools: public and private, Jewish and Catholic day, special needs and charter schools.  Students are required to write a brief essay after the dinner, sharing one aspect of their experience that they found moving or insightful.  We received outstanding essays from all of our schools.  Below are a few excerpts from exceptional essays – their words remind us why it is so important to educate the next generation about the Holocaust in general and rescue in particular. 

“…this dinner shed a new light on the Holocaust that I was blind to beforehand.” – Ethan, the Heschel School

 “Though I’ve read quite a few books and have watched movies that are related to this tragic event in history, I never really understood what it must’ve been like for the Jews living in Europe at the time.  However, that changed on the evening I attended the JFR’s ceremony…” – Sang-A, Stuyvesant High School

“I have never been moved to the point of tears when hearing, reading, or learning about the Holocaust.  That all changed on Tuesday, November 30….There is no way to fully explain the extent to which Mr. Misiuna has motivated and moved me.  At the very least, he made me more determined than ever to continue to do community service and care for others.” – Anna, the Heschel School

“That evening was truly wonderful, I learned that when people have the courage to do what’s right they make a wonderful impact in someone else’s life.” – Erica, The Churchill School

“Understanding all the risks these rescuers took is something we hear and appreciate, but it is difficult to actually understand what it entails.  Witnessing the reunion helped me understand the reality of righteous gentiles.” – Mia, the Heschel School

 “Wladyslaw Misiuna’s story is a testament to the fact that apathy and cruelty are not a given.  Acting as a bystander is a choice that the individual makes, just as being an upstander is a personal choice.”  – Emma, the Heschel School 

“It was a pure, untainted moment, when Mr. Misuna and Mrs. Marmurek walked onto the podium together.  Although it took more than a few seconds for them to reach the microphone, the clapping never wavered.  Every single person in the room had gotten to a point beyond their own ego, a point of reverence and respect. The dinner managed to move people to genuine admiration.”  – Massye, SAR Academy

“Marmurek and Misiuna embraced one another as though they were two halves of a magnet; it was beyond words.  Marmurek beheld the man that gave her life, the man that created more than ten lives as a result of the rescue.” – Ilana, the Heschel School

 “The school teacher honoree, Mr. Grimes, made me feel relieved that the legacy of the Holocaust will live on in schools throughout the U.S.A….Seeing Mr. Grimes get an award for…his class on the Holocaust made me feel good.  I now know that people everywhere don’t want to let the Holocaust be forgotten.” – Ben, SAR Academy

“Being a student of a modern-orthodox [Jewish] school, it was nice to see that people of many different beliefs can share some fundamental and universal values.” – Adin, SAR Academy

“Attending the dinner was an especially unique experience for me because I am a Muslim student.  In another part of the world, Muslims and Jews are constantly fighting each other in an endless cycle.  But as I found out at the dinner, religion does not have to play a role in helping people.  Christians decided to help Jews because they inherently knew that it was the right thing to do.  And if you see someone who needs help, you should help them no matter what race or religion they are.  It could be a Jew helping a Muslim, a Christian helping a Jew, black helping white, or anything.”  – Mahtab, Stuyvesant High School

“…I will never be able to justify the suffering of those who experienced the Holocaust, but I have learned the importance of recognizing beauty, even in the face of incomprehensible suffering.” – Jason, SAR Academy

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