Students remember Holocaust victims
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 15:06
Upon entering The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center, one is presented with a room that outlines the events that played out during the Holocaust from pre-Holocaust to the liberation stages. It is a room full of faces and names that are commonly associated with the tragedies of this historic genocide. As one travels further into the center, a room currently displays an array of beautiful and creative visuals that highlight in the most positive ways these same people.
The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center in Maitland currently is housing a student art exhibit, which is a part of its yearly Yom HaShoah Student Creative Arts contest. Yom HaShoah means “A Day of Remembrance.” This exhibit has on display 148 visual pieces of artwork out of the 450-plus entries that were submitted in this year’s contest.
The entries ranged in artistic mediums from visual arts to short stories to digital media projects. This year’s theme was titled “One By One: Life Stories from the Holocaust," which challenged students in creating a respectful memory of the victims of the Nazis and a truthful memory of their lives.
Mitchell Bloomer, the center’s resource teacher, is one of the main staff members who is in charge of putting together the contest, picking out the entries to be displayed and educating the students on the true meaning and value behind the contest itself.
“One of the points that the Holocaust Center tries to make with our young visitors is that it’s an act of respect to take the time and effort to learn about someone’s life," Bloomer said. “It is an act of respect to learn someone’s name so when you see them, you can call them by their name instead of ‘Hey you.’”
This year, the students were asked to pick one person who was in the Holocaust and to tell that person’s life story; it was pointed out, though, to not make it their death story. It was intended to make the entry about their life story — a celebration and remembrance of the humanity behind the victims of the Holocaust.
“No one deserves to be remembered by the worst things that happened to them,” Bloomer said.
He added that he believes the students who participated from public and private schools in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard and Lake counties understood just that.
“What gives me the greatest pleasures is to see the works by the so many of kids who got it, who understood what we were asking them to do, and that endeavor has a transforming measure on our community,” Bloomer said.
Being the first Holocaust museum in Florida and the Southeast, the center’s mission has remained practically unchanged for the past 31 years, said Pam Kancher, the center’s executive director. She said this year’s exhibit demonstrates the center’s continued work toward diversity and reaching out to educate the community. A native of New Orleans, Kancher reflects on one of the best feelings that she had from this year’s “Yom HaShoah” Student Creative Arts contest.
“I was able to walk around this room and see friends that I knew that were being remembered in an entirely different community from the one they currently lived,” Kancher said.
She described the continued success and ability the center has to educate comes from the “amazing first executive director, Tess Wise, who is herself a Holocaust survivor from Poland. She had the tenacity, foresight and the persistence to convince people in our community that having a Holocaust educational center was critical for our community.”
Chelcee Price, a sophomore from Freedom High School, was the first-place high school winner in the creative writing category of the contest. Price accompanied Kancher and Mark Freid, the second vice president of the Board of Directors, to the Orlando City Council meeting on April 26 to read her submission aloud to Mayor Buddy Dyer and the Orlando City Council members.
“I was really excited and honored to have won and read my piece at the City Council meeting," Price said. “At first, I thought it was a joke, but I actually got to meet the mayor and read some of my work.”
Price read the book Witness: Voices from the Holocaust for school and chose Bessie K. for her piece because her accounts caught her attention.
“Since there wasn’t much information on her besides the book, I made sure my writing was historically accurate,” Price said.
The Yom HaShoah Student Creative Arts exhibit will be displayed until June 30. It will showcase the works of the students as they continue to pay tribute and positive remembrance to the everyday people who lived during the Holocaust.