by George J Elbaum
North Star Academy is a magnet school with enrollment of 520 students in grades 3–8. While most of my talks in schools are initiated and organized by a member of the school’s faculty or staff, this talk had a different and more poignant source.
Earlier this year an 8th grader, Sofie, reached out to the JFCS Holocaust Center because she was working on a school project that focused on a social justice issue of choice. Sofie chose the issue of antisemitism because she’s Jewish and learned from her family about their experience of antisemitism in the former Soviet Union. Her great-grandparents and grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and Sofie’s goal through this project was to help spread awareness about antisemitism to prevent terrible tragedies like the Holocaust from happening again. She has gone to several classrooms in her school and shared what she’s learned about Jewish history and antisemitism. (Admirable purpose and initiative. Bravo!)
Together with the school’s principal Sara Shackel, Sophie organized the event which was attended by an audience of approximately 90+ mostly 7th and 8th graders plus some 6th graders as well. To prepare for the presentation, the students spent several hours learning about the Holocaust, ancient Israel, etc. (As noted by the principal, North Star is a school for advanced learners, so “they pick things up quickly.”) Also attending the talk were North Star teachers Gwen Minor, David Flint, and Loraine Martin.
My participation was arranged by Penny Savryn, Education & Marketing Manager, and Veronica Siegel, Administrative Program Coordinator, JFCS Holocaust Center.