Shaler Area is hosting An Evening of Holocaust Remembrance & Education in commemoration of the Tree of Life synagogue from 6 to 9 p.m. March 28 at Shaler Area High School.
The event will combine three elements — Holocaust education, observance of the Tree of the Life synagogue victims, and children’s activities focusing on empathy, respect and multiculturalism.
Shaler Area teacher Nick Haberman is using a portion of a $1,000 grant he received as the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh’s Holocaust Educator of the Year to the fund the event. While admission is free, donations will benefit the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Community Campaign.
In the fall, Haberman, who teaches The History of the Holocaust elective, had started planning a Holocaust education seminar. Following the Oct. 27, 2018, attack on the Tree of Life synagogue that left 11 dead, fellow Shaler Area teacher Kristen Susany approached Haberman about organizing an event to memorialize the victims.
“We are making it more meaningful, connecting it to the present, educating people about the Holocaust and about the Tree of Life shooting to hopefully stop the spread of anti-Semitism in this area and the growth of anti-Semitism in this area,” Haberman said.
From 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the school library and adjoining LIGHT (Leadership through Innovation in Genocide and Human rights Teaching) Center, Holocaust survivor Shulamit Bastacky will talk to students about her experiences as a Lithuanian “hidden” child. Together, they will decorate butterflies in remembrance of child Holocaust victims. Additionally, Shaler North Hills Library and Millvale Community Library staff will read stories of empathy and tolerance.
“What I’m trying to show is that learning about the Holocaust is something that is not just done exclusively in schools — students and teachers, together,” Haberman said. “It’s something that is really important to study as a family and as a community.”
Shaler Area students will serve as docents from 6 to 8 p.m. for the exhibit “The Wannsee Conference and the Persecution and Murder of the European Jews.” Classrooms Without Borders is providing the exhibit from The House of the Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational Site in Berlin.
Also, from 6 to 8 p.m. in lobby, The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh will display selections of its comic series CHUTZ-POW! SUPERHEROES OF THE HOLOCAUST. Survivor Yolanda Avram-Willis will sell and sign copies of her memoir “A Hidden Child in Greece: Rescue in the Holocaust” and Shaler Area students studying the Holocaust, genocide and human rights will staff various information booths.
The public is invited from 7 to 9 p.m. to the auditorium for a program featuring speakers and music.
A Holocaust educator for 40 years Lynne Ravas will speak about an American Jewish couple who adopted a Jewish child from a German orphanage in 1937. They encountered difficulty with the adoption process due to American anti-Semitism at the time, she said.
“The couple had to return to this country without the child, and then start proving that they would take care of this child, that this child would not become a burden to the local or federal government.”
In the process of getting the child to the United States, Kristallnacht (a violent attack on Jews) broke out and the orphanage was targeted. The town where the orphanage was located was burned. People were arrested, and the children in the orphanage and the adults who cared for them in the orphanage were moved to another location and the orphanage was looted. While they were out, they (the Jews) were later deported out of the town.”
Ravas said that, eventually, the government finalized the adoption.
In addition to the speakers, Christopher Sforza, a professional klezmer (Jewish folk) musician will play and the Shaler Area choir and silk line will perform.
For more information, visit www.LIGHTinitiative.org.