On May 21, several hundred students, teachers and parents gathered at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center, in Providence, for the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center’s (SBHEC) Art & Writing Contest Award ceremony.
The contest helps the center fulfill its educational mission by engaging students from all over Rhode Island. Hundreds of entries were received, ranging from stories and poems to two- and three-dimensional art and computer-generated videos, resulting in dozens of Rhode Island students being honored for their writing and artwork.
The theme of this year’s contest was: What if they were here today? Board Vice President and event Master of Ceremonies Maybeth Lichaa elaborated on the theme, saying, “If someone who perished in the Holocaust came back today and they looked around and saw all the hate that still exists in the world, after what they had been through, what would they say?”
The crowd was buzzing with anticipation as Lichaa stepped to the microphone to begin the ceremony. Outgoing SBHEC Board President Judith Jamieson delivered moving opening remarks, kvelling over the volume and quality of the submitted work.
Jamieson said that, of all the center’s outreach efforts, she finds the contest most fulfilling.
“Most of these students are not Jewish and so the learning curve for them, their friends and families, and the faculty at their schools, is the kind of success we are looking for. These students have grasped the concept each year, and middle school is the age that we want students to get it. For me, this is always a significant event that underscores what we hope to accomplish.”
Jamieson presented the Singer Art Award to Madison McCauley, of St. Augustine School, and Lara Lopez, of Park View Middle School.
Guest speaker Deborah Schuss said she participates in the event every year because, “My parents suffered greatly, and I lost almost my entire family because of Hitler. It’s very important for me to carry on my family’s legacy and continue telling their story. Especially because there are so many today who are either rewriting or denying the facts of the Holocaust.”
Schuss presented the Gastfreund Writing Award to Robert Fitzgerald, of Mt. Saint Charles Academy, and Angelina Ortiz, of Park View Middle School. She also shared her family’s story and spoke of how important this contest was to her father.
“My father used to say he wanted people to understand man’s capacity for inhumanity, and that cuts across all cultures. I think it is important for people of all faiths and cultures to understand that it is rearing its ugly head again and needs to be combatted.”
Lichaa, and special guest Betty Jaffe, also presented the 1st, 2nd, 3rd place and honorable mention awards.
“We are thrilled to have so many teenagers participate because at their age it is very evident that they can understand hate and they can understand the impact of the Holocaust and genocide,” Lichaa said. “Every year I am blown away not just by their talent but how they understand the concept.”
The ceremony ended on a sweet note as the students and their families enjoyed the ice cream bar supplied by SBHEC Board member Ken Schneider and Sundaes ice cream shops.
LEV POPLOW is a communications and development consultant who writes for the Bornstein Holocaust Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.