A very memorable moment for me in 2018 was representing the Shoah Committee and introducing the production of “My Heart in a Suitcase” to a packed auditorium of students from Grades 8-10 at Ridgemont High School. At its conclusion, over 600 students, plus their teachers spontaneously rose from their seats, many in tears, with a standing ovation.
The Shoah Committee decided to bring this play in from New York, with the support of a generous donation from Miriam and Michael Leber. Members of the committee visited the school in advance to make sure things were properly organized according to the needs of the production company. During that visit, we hoped we had chosen the right venue to show this play, but were unsure if it would truly resonate with this student body. The hallways were filled with kids from diverse backgrounds, many of whom were new Canadians and whose first language was not English. When we asked the vice-principal if these teens’ curriculum included any Holocaust education, she was unsure, and thought, for many of them, this might be their first exposure.
But we were all blown away. The kids related to the play beyond any measure we expected, identifying with the protagonist, a teenaged girl, who had lost friendships, freedom, and the lives of loved ones, based purely on her being Jewish. The questions they asked at its conclusion were insightful, and could have gone on for much longer than the time we had allotted. The chair of the Ridgemont Parents Council, a Muslim woman, was so touched that she has offered to help our committee promote Holocaust education in any way she can.
The committee has decided to bring the play to Woodroffe High School next spring and we look forward to another successful experience.
In honour of Holocaust Education Month, the Shoah Committee is proudly presenting two exceptional events in November.
When Nancy Spielberg spoke at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Annual Campaign kickoff in 2016, she mentioned she was producing a new docudrama about the Warsaw Ghetto. This recently-released film tells the story of historian Emanuel Ringelblum, who led a clandestine group of community members to document their lives in the ghetto from a Jewish perspective and defeat Nazi lies and propaganda. That these documents were found years later, in the ghetto’s rubble, is a miraculous story. We will present this film, “Who Will Write Our History,” at Ben Franklin Place on Sunday, November 18, 4 pm. Tickets are free, but seating is limited.
We are excited to bring Professor Amos Guiora to Ottawa to speak about his latest book, The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust, on Wednesday, November 28, 7 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre. A world-renowned speaker, Guiora served in the IDF for 19 years and was directly involved in the implementation of the Oslo peace process.
If one is a bystander and witness to a crime, should intervention to prevent that crime be a legal obligation, or is moral responsibility enough? Guiora, a child of Holocaust survivors, explores these questions and the bystander-victim relationship from a deeply personal and legal perspective focusing on the Holocaust and then exploring cases of sexual assault in contemporary society.
The calendar of events taking place during Holocaust Education Month is at this link. We hope you can take advantage of some of these excellent programs.