Written By: Chava Bychutsky

Growing up, Holocaust Education was very much a given; community-run speaker events throughout the year, memorial services in school, and regularly included in my school curriculum. Even as a kid I knew that Holocaust education was important, but I don’t think I fully grasped why until I started Grade 7 at a new school in a new community. For the first time, I was surrounded by people in a school that had no interest in Holocaust education.

When I was younger, Holocaust education was important to me because it was how we, as a community, honour the victims and survivors and commit to calling out hatred and discrimination. But when it was time for Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) my first year at that school, I felt uncomfortable that they didn’t even commemorate ⎯ let alone acknoweldge ⎯ the day; it felt disrespectful.

The reasons that Holocaust Education Week (HEW) at Western Hillel is important to me are endless. It starts with what I knew as a child ⎯ having designated time to honour Holocaust victims and survivors and commit to being a more respectful community. It’s also a week for me that signifies the culture of our community. HEW is a time for learning and listening, something we don’t actually do very often. It’s a time when our society engages with a chapter of its history when it acted deplorably by trying to understand the suffering that was caused

As VP Advocacy, at Western Hillel, I am very proud of my Hillel and the amazing team of student leaders on my Holocaust Awareness Committee that put together an impactful series of events. We started with a virtual tour of Płaszów concentration camp led by Adam Schorin, whose grandfather was a survivor of the camp. Next, students experienced a virtual tour of a Jewish museum in Russia. We also invited Professor Eli Nathans to share his perspectives on Holocaust history and to reflect on how we talk about Holocaust history in society. Finally, students from all backgrounds had the opportunity to hear the survivor testimony of Judy Cohen as she shared her unique presentation on the experiences of women and gender issues during the Holocaust.


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