More than 1,500 Students in Grades 6 to 12 responded to Student Visual Arts and Literacy Contest  

 

Winners of the third annual Amud Aish Memorial Museum and Kleinman Holocaust Education Center Student Visual Arts and Literacy Contest were announced on May 17 after a panel of staff members pored through 1,525 student submissions from 127 schools in 14 states and three countries.

The theme for this year’s contest was “Born to Live: Remembering the Children of the Holocaust” and it focused on the items children took with them when they escaped or were sent to a ghetto. Students responded to six items including a letter that a boy’s father wrote to him just before he escaped on a Kindertransport; a doll that was a little girl’s sole connection to home while in hiding; and a wallet full of receipts from food parcels a child sent to his doomed parents. Responses could be written—in a letter or poem for one of the children—or visually represented through a work of art in response to a child’s life and the precious item.

Monsey student at Ateres Bais Yaakov Faigy Israel’s winning entry was a letter to Hans Ettlinger about his first shoe that became a symbol of life and escape, unlike the shoes most associated with the Holocaust. Faigy pondered what Hans’ life was like when he first got that shoe and then when he was forced to leave home. She considered all the children who didn’t make it. She wrote, “Their shoes symbolize a life that won’t be filled. Your shoes symbolize a life that was filled. I have similar shoes to you.” She then relayed her experience visiting Ukraine, where tens of thousands of Jews were murdered. “The same steps my shoes were taking, they had taken, too.” She concludes with a note of hope and determination, “And my shoes—they deserve someone to fill them to their capacity. Every morning when I put them on, I pause and think of all those empty shoes. And I think, ‘What can I do to fill my shoes today?’ Because, Hans, you and I are alike. Our shoes have someone to fill them.”

Of the winners from the visual arts category, one entry stood out because it was made for one of the hidden children’s precious objects: a doll. Winner Esti Salamon (Brooklyn, New York) sewed a new, period-appropriate dress and apron for the doll. Another winning art entry, from Shaindy Follman (Brooklyn, New York) features a sketch of a little girl at a crossroads—between life and death—grasping her doll.

The winners for sixth, seventh and eighth grade (written) are: first place, Jacelyn Stewart, Bader Hillel Academy (Whitefish Bay, Wis.); second place, Aaron Liebskind, Bi-Cultural Day School (Stamford, Conn.); and third place, Rachy Moster, Bais Malka Belz (Brooklyn, N.Y.).

J.); second place, Esti Salamon, Tiferes Bnos (Brooklyn, N.Y.); and third place, Yehuda Dov Reiss, Fasman Yeshiva High School (Skokie, Ill.).

 

“The Holocaust can be a challenging topic to teach to this age group, so when educators can focus on a specific aspect of the Holocaust—such as the experiences of children who survived—in a creative way, children learn more than just the dates and events. They learn about the individuals who endured. What kept them going? How did they survive? It impacts them on a more personal level—students can connect with these children because they are also children,” said Mrs. Julie Golding, Amud Aish director of education.

The museum saw a doubling of submissions from the previous year. “The increase in submissions really speaks to educators’ eagerness to find a better, more engaging way to teach the Holocaust. At the museum—through the education program as well as our exhibits—we focus on the lives of those who lived, how they struggled to keep things as normal as possible and how they held on to their faith,” said Rabbi Sholom Friedmann, Amud Aish director.

Teachers were eager to include the contest in their curriculum. “The Born to Live contest greatly enhanced my students’ awareness of children in the Holocaust. It increased their empathy toward both victims who did not survive and survivors. It opened up their curiosity to learn more about the Holocaust and, most importantly, to be proactive in preventing future genocides, intolerance and anti-Semitism. In fact, our school is now working on incorporating a genocide studies class

next year partially inspired by the impact of the Born to Live contest,” said Gary Klotzkin, social studies teacher at Belleville High School.

The contest is sponsored by Meridian Capital Group, LLC, The Jewish Press and The ArtScroll Library. First-place winners will each receive a $150 Visa gift card, second-place winners will each receive a $72 Visa gift card, and third-place winners will each receive a $25 Visa gift card.

High-resolution files of the artwork and scanned written work are available upon request.

About the School Program

The Amud Aish school program in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, accommodates students in grades six and up. School visits are content-rich experiences that support the New York State social studies standards and align with Common Core Standards. Museum educators provide resources to teachers in advance of each visit to prepare students for the experience and encourage learning beyond the field trip. In addition to a tour of the exhibition and a small-group classroom workshop, students have the opportunity to express what they learned through the tools in the new art workshop. Tours are available in English, Hebrew and Yiddish. The online group reservation system is currently taking requests at http://www.amudaish.org/group. Since its opening, many thousands of children have visited the school exhibition program.

About the Amud Aish Memorial Museum/Kleinman Holocaust Education Center

Amud Aish is dedicated to documenting the micro-histories of observant Jewish victims and the role of faith within the broader context of the annihilation of European Jewry. It will service the general public and students at its soon-to-open permanent museum location that incorporates the Kleinman Holocaust Education Center, the Orthodox Testimony Project (in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), a document and research archive, and an artifact collections archive. Amud Aish is active globally through its international division, with current projects in Poland and Belgium and more in development. Amud Aish will open its permanent location in Boro Park, Brooklyn, in 2017. It currently has a temporary facility in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, with future annexes in Lakewood, New Jersey, and Jerusalem. Learn more at amudaish.org and follow us on Facebook: @amudaishmm.

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