To link the messages of previous generations to the generations yet unborn, we turn to the young people of the present, whose care and creativity will carry our nation forward. This year, Shevach students have joined many thousands of people across the globe in commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps. Through original projects, educational trips, and inspiring events, Shevach students are growing in their knowledge of klal Yisrael’s past and in their commitment to its future.
On Thursday, February 6, the twelfth grade visited the Museum of Jewish Heritage to view the exhibit “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” The trip was coordinated and chaperoned by Mrs. Chaya Swerdloff, who teaches the senior course in Holocaust Studies, and by Mrs. Nechama Mirsky, who is the Associate Principal for General Studies. The visit began with a presentation by Dr. Paul Radensky, the Museum Educator. Dr. Radensky led an analysis of multiple photographs from the era before the Holocaust. The analysis enabled the students to discover the effects of the onset of the Holocaust through the images and artifacts of the era. The tour of the exhibit was led by knowledgeable guides who pointed out many examples of spiritual heroism and resistance in the darkest of places. The original objects, video testimony, and telling artwork created a framework for a wider and deeper understanding of the experience of Jews imprisoned in Auschwitz and in other horrific locations in Europe during the war.
The highlight of the visit was a poignant yet powerful lecture by Mrs. Bronia Brandman. Mrs. Brandman told the Shevach students about her wonderful family and childhood in Jaworzno, Poland, and her grueling, near-death experiences in Auschwitz. Despite the unimaginable suffering she endured, Mrs. Brandman’s message to the students was one of strength and pride. She encouraged the girls to have bitachon, and to also realize that we are more capable than we think we are. She pointed out that the Jewish nation has outlived all the civilizations that have tried to do us harm, and how proud we should be to have the Torah. Mrs. Brandman exclaimed that as the students are the leadership of the next generation, it is up to them to be involved, proud Jews. In that way, she said, “We will live forever, and that will be our n’kamah.”
This winter, Project Witness held a national competition focusing on the heroic efforts of survivors to rebuild their lives after the devastation of the Holocaust. Aviva Keller, a Shevach sophomore, entered her original composition, “Sunrise,” and won a top award in the music category. The song was inspired by her grandmother a”h, and it is a song that elicits many emotions. Aviva explains, “I wanted the first part of the song to really represent the fear that people felt after they were liberated. Understanding that piece is crucial to realizing what an incredible feat they accomplished by moving on and rebuilding.” While the song is based on a mashal, a parable, Aviva points out,” This wasn’t just a story; this was about the lives of real people – how could I do that justice?” Aviva says the chorus is her favorite part. While the Holocaust looked like the end for so many people – and for six million Jews it was – there are more Jews now than there were 75 years ago. Every day, the survivors woke up from their nightmares to give us a good life, and they did. Every day had looked like sunset to them; but after a while, I think they started to realize that it was actually the sunrise.” Several other outstanding submissions created by Shevach students were also published in Inyan Magazine two weeks ago. These included artistic pieces by Shayna Friedman, Chana Jacob, Ahuva Kazarnovsky, Ettie Langer, and Sarah Malka Weinberg.
As we near z’man cheiruseinu, Shevach will be holding its own in-house competition in preparation for a special pre-Pesach event focused on the theme of cheirus – freedom. Students will be able to submit divrei Torah, art, and poetry in connection with the statement of the Amora’im that, in each generation, a person is required to view himself as having been liberated from Egypt. Winning submissions will receive a cash prize, and notable submissions will also be published, b’ezras Hashem, in a professionally printed booklet that will be distributed to the students and their families. The event will feature several speakers and include student discussions on the meaning and impact of physical and spiritual freedom. The presentations will highlight Y’tzias Mitzrayim, liberation after the Holocaust, and the freedom of Soviet Jewry from the Iron Curtain. Miss Sara Nasirov, who teaches Limudei Kodesh as well as Global History and American Government at Shevach, is coordinating this important upcoming event.
Shevach extends its wishes to the entire community that, together, we should share in the ultimate cheirus with the coming of Mashiach, soon in our days.