2017 International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Reflection on The 2017 International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration 

We are beyond thankful for the success of yesterday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration. 

We appreciate the attendance and voices of our many community and state leaders, educators, students, and dedicated Voices of Hope family, friends and Survivors. 
We all must remember to stand up and speak out to ensure these atrocities never happen again. #voicesofhope #weremember

A new home for Holocaust education organization

By Cindy Mindell 

(Originally posted in the Jewish Ledger)

FARMINGTON – A statewide non-profit organization dedicated to Holocaust education has branched out on its own.

Voices of Hope (VOH) was founded in 2008 by Alan Lazowski, a West Hartford resident and son of Holocaust survivors Rabbi Philip and Ruth Lazowski, as a way for second- and third-generation descendants to preserve and pass down the survivors’ legacy. Under the auspices of the Hartford-based Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT) Fund, VOH has created a statewide network of Holocaust survivors and children and grandchildren of survivors to collect, categorize, and share the experiences of Holocaust survivors for the benefit of future generations. Over nearly a decade, VOH has worked to foster a culture of courage and social action against hate, bigotry, intolerance, and indifference through commemorative, educational, and celebratory programs.
Now, from its new offices in Farmington, the organization will continue to implement its mission, led by an 18-member board of directors and funded by private and foundation donations. The organization boasts some 120 active members – Holocaust survivors and their descendants, referred to as “second generation” and “third generation.”
“We are thankful to JFACT for their commitment to our mission all these years while we were a program under the auspices of the JFACT Fund, and we look forward to partnering on future programs together,” says Kathy Fishman, VOH director of operations.
“As an independent corporation, our short-term goal is to expand throughout the state and be identified as an educational nonprofit, with hopes to obtain further grants for genocide and Holocaust education,” says Anna Huttner, VOH director of education and communications.
According to Huttner, VOH will continue to bring Holocaust survivors and their descendants into schools to teach the lessons of the Holocaust through personal testimonies. “Our goal is to raise social consciousness by connecting people to the humanity of Holocaust and genocide victims,” she says.
Thanks to a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford, VOH has been working closely with the State of Connecticut Department of Education on a Holocaust-related curriculum and teaching tools that align with state standards. The resources will be made available on the Department of Education website this spring.
In partnership with the University of Hartford and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford, VOH launched the Holocaust Survivor Interview Project to collect and video-record the stories of local survivors, many of whom had participated in the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive and/or the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University.
In December, VOH provided a panelist for the Third International Human Rights Day at Hall High School in West Hartford.
This year, VOH plans to continue expanding its flagship programming, and to engage more second and third generations throughout the state through outreach to the seven Connecticut Jewish federations and at a first-ever Connecticut Conference for Survivors and their Children and Grandchildren.
For several years, VOH has sponsored field trips for Connecticut school groups to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. Students spend the day touring the museum with a docent, hear firsthand from a Holocaust survivor, and learn about other genocides. VOH recruits a survivor or child of a survivor to travel with each school group in order to answer questions and talk about the museum experience. This year, the organization plans to provide the trip for more than 150 Hartford-area high-school students.
In addition, VOH is coordinating tours for multiple Greater Hartford school groups to the Museum of Jewish Civilization at the University of Hartford’s Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies. VOH and the University of Hartford are partnering to train second-generation and University of Hartford students to serve as museum docents. The organization is also working with museum director Prof. Avinoam Patt to develop curriculum materials for educators based on the new permanent exhibit, “Hartford Remembers the Holocaust.”
As an independent organization, VOH will be able to augment its mission to educate not only about Holocaust and genocides, but about the dangers of bullying and prejudice.
“Looking at newspapers from the 1930s versus those of today, we see similarities,” says Huttner. “If people don’t stand up and become upstanding citizens, things like the Holocaust and genocide can actually happen. We believe that the stories from the Shoah are so relevant for today and for teaching, so that we never forget what happened and we don’t repeat the past.”
While the Greater Hartford community still has access to the first-hand testimonies of Holocaust survivors, VOH has designed its programming to pass on those stories.
“Today, survivors of the Shoah speak for themselves but tomorrow the next generation will need to continue to bear witness to real-life examples of the evils of prejudice and intolerance,” Huttner says. “Everything we do is designed to preserve survivors’ stories so that they will live on beyond the survivors’ lives.”

Students at West Hartford’s Hall High Spend Day Focusing on Human Rights

By We-Ha on December 7, 2016

International Human Rights Day was recognized and celebrated at West Hartford’s Hall High School with a day-long program of workshops and a panel discussion.

By Ronni Newton

Hall High School students did not attend classes Wednesday, but instead spent the entire day learning from each other and a diverse group of panelists as the community recognized and honored International Human Rights Day.

This is the third year that the West Hartford school has dedicated an entire day to human rights, and Assistant Principal Shelley Solomon said this year’s program was bigger and better than ever. There were 39 different workshops – all led by students. Throughout the day each Hall student attended two workshops of their choice, as well as a multimedia panel presentation focused on acceptance and other human rights-related topics

“We have created a special day centered on students, faculty and staff joining together to continue our conversation about breaking down barriers and building a culture of respect for all,” said Principal Dan Zittoun. “We believe this day truly embodies every branch of our school’s core values and beliefs, especially the cultivation of a compassionate and engaged community, a safe and well-maintained environment, and dynamic and varied instruction.”

Personal stories were shared throughout the day-long sessions, and some of the topics were a bit uncomfortable, but that made the presentations and discussions that much more meaningful.

In the “American Dream” workshop, English language learners shared their personal experiences in response to questions posed by other students.

Megan Delgado, a junior from Ecuador, said it was difficult and expensive to get a visa to come to the U.S., and not always a guarantee that it would be granted. Once she got her visa she faced the reality that she was going to leave her parents and other family members behind to come to the United States. “But I was excited because I would have a better future,” she said.

In response to what is most different about being in the U.S., sophomore Sardor Mirzarakhimov, a native of Uzbekistan, said it was the food. “In my country we don’t eat ham or pork. It’s very bad when Muslims eat pork,” he said. But he said that one day he ordered a pizza with pepperoni – and had no idea it was made from pork. “I didn’t know what to do, it was so good,” he said.

The students also responded to the question of when they first felt “American.” Solomon said that one of the students in a workshop earlier in the day had said, “The first time I felt American is sitting here right now, and being able to talk to you.”

Ricquon Tyson led the “Seeing the Person in Prisoner” workshop, speaking to his fellow students about the “school to prison pipeline” and how students of certain races and ethnicities are suspended more often than others. “Are our children being pushed to prison?” was a question he asked his fellow students to consider.

The “Building Bridges” workshop brought together students of all abilities

Presenter Lily Shakun said that in her visual arts class she works with some special needs students on art projects and thinks its important for all students to be able to relate to each other. Students attending the workshop played games like Connect 4, and learned to communicate through sign language.

“What commitment can you make to connect?” was the challenge of the workshop. “We want kids to say ‘Hi’ and sit at tables at lunch,” Lily said. She thinks the workshop will be a success.

Other workshops topics included “Allyship through the Lens of Race,” “End of Stigma. Period.,” “The Changing Roles of Masculinity in Society,” “LGBTQ+ Definitions Bingo,” “Human Rights from an Islamic Perspective,” as well as several sessions about hunger.

In the auditorium students attended a multimedia presentation moderated by English teacher Matt West. Panelists included West Hartford Police School Resource Officer Leo Negron, Victoria Christgau from the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence, Aida Mansoor from the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, Melissa Cordner from True Colors, and Sharone Kornman, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, who all shared their personal stories.

West engaged students in the audience with a “stand-up-sit-down” exercise. He asked them to stand up if they had witnessed human rights violations ranging from cyber bullying, to media bias, to harassment.

“Stand up if you’ve seen discrimination here at Hall High School,” West said, and remarked that three-quarters or more of the audience stood up.

“If that many of you stood up for your peers all the time there would probably be far fewer standing up for other [witnessed violations],” West said.

However, he told the students that someone in the day’s first session of the multimedia presentation pointed out something very important – that not everyone can stand up.

“It was my blind spot, forgetting that some people can’t stand up,” West said. “On Human Rights Day I’m the moderator and I did that. I felt horrible.”

“Everybody makes mistakes,” he said. West said it gave him the opportunity to reflect, and the inspiration to do better.

Finding Their Voices: Children of Holocaust Survivors Stand Up to Speak Up

Click to HERE read this exciting article about our Voices of Hope members, who were featured on the front page of the Jewish Ledger after doing out Speak Up Second Generation series. Mazel tov to all of the participants!

Katie Ledecky, Olympic gold medalist swimmer, lost family members in the Holocaust

Alan Dershowitz: Europe’s old (and new) hells remind us of Israel’s importance

7/19/2016  |

Fox News

auschwitzpic1By Alan Dershowitz Published May 17, 2016

I just returned from a week­long journey through hell! It began with a visit to the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps in what was once German ­occupied Poland, as a participant of the March of the Living, following a conference commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Nuremberg laws and the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials. My week was consumed with recurring evidence of the worst crime ever perpetrated by human beings on other human beings – the Holocaust. My week was consumed with recurring evidence of the worst crime ever perpetrated by human beings on other human beings – the Holocaust. I travelled from the death camps to several small Polish towns from which my grandparents emigrated well before the Holocaust, leaving behind relatives and friends. During the course of my travels, I discovered the fate of two of my relatives. Hanna Deresiewicz (an original spelling of my family name) was a 16­year­old girl living in the small town of Pilzno when the Nazis arrived; she was separated from her siblings and parents. “The soldiers took several of the most beautiful Jewish girls for sex, and then killed them. [Among those] taken [was] Hanna Deresiewicz, 16.” Another relative named Polek Dereshowitz, served as an “orderly” to the Commandant of Auschwitz when he was 15. He was suspended “from the ringbolts in his office because a flea had been found on one of his dogs.” He was later gassed. This is not the first time I have visited Nazi death camps. I was fully familiar with the statistical evidence of how six million Jews were systematically murdered. I was also familiar with how the Nazi death machine searched out Jews in the furthest corners of Nazi occupied Europe, even as far as the Island of Rhodes, and transported them to Auschwitz to gas them. I also knew that this was the only time in human history when people were brought from far distances to camps designed for one purpose only – to kill every possible Jew they could find no matter where they lived. And I knew that because this was part of a planned genocide of the Jewish People, it was most important to kill every child, woman and man capable of producing future Jews. But this visit, during which I learned the fate of two young members of my own family, brought the horrors home to me in a manner more personal than any statistic could provide. I was travelling with my wife and daughter, and I repeatedly imagined what it must have felt like for the parents and spouses of the murdered Jews to realize that everything precious to them was being annihilated and that there would be no one left to mourn them or to carry their seed to future generations. From the old hell, Poland, I travelled to a new hell, called Hungary. Budapest is a beautiful city, but it too, provided a hellish end to its Jewish residents in the final months of the Second World War when Hungarian Nazis turned the Blue Danube into a red mass grave. They shot their Jewish neighbors and dumped their bodies into the Danube River, even as the Nazis were retreating. And now in modern day Budapest, I was told of the resurgence of Nazism among many ordinary Hungarians. The increasingly popular Fascist party boasts of its anti­Semitism and of its desire to rid Hungary of its few remaining Jews. The Fascist Party in Hungary also hates Israel, and everything else that is a manifestation of Jewishness. I ended my trip meeting with a Jewish man of Greek background whose grandfather was murdered by the Nazis and who was now being targeted by Greek Fascists for his outspoken defense of Israel and the Jewish people. Athens, too, has become a hotbed of Jew­hatred, with its popular Fascist Party. 7/19/2016 Alan Dershowitz: Europe’s old (and new) hells remind us of Israel’s importance | Fox News http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/05/17/alan­dershowitz­europes­old­and­new­hells­remind­us­israels­importance.print.html 2/2 Home Video Politics U.S. Opinion Entertainment Tech Science Health Travel Lifestyle World Sports Weather Privacy Terms Print Close There was not a moment during my visit to Europe that I was not reminded of that continent’s sordid history with regard to the Jewish people. Now, many Europeans—the children, grandchildren and great­grandchildren of those who were complicit in the murder of six million Jews—have turned against the Nation State of the Jewish People with a vengeance. This time the bigotry emanates mostly from the hard left, but has the support of many on the new Fascist hard right. The British Labor Party is as rife with hatred of the Jewish People and Jewish Nation as is the Hungarian Fascist Party. Once again, European Jews are caught between the extremes of the Black and the Red. Extremists on both sides seek the demise of Israel, arguing that there is no place in a world with multiple Muslim and Christian nations for one state that is overtly Jewish in its character. Other Europeans seek to boycott Israel’s products, its professors, and its performers. While still others simply apply a double standard to its actions ­­ a standard they apply to no other nation, including their own. My visit to Europe made one thing unmistakably clear: if there is any group in the world that needs a safe homeland—a sanctuary from bigotry and hatred—it is the Jewish people. When Hitler was willing to expel them from Europe, before deciding to exterminate them, no country – not even the United States or Canada – would give them asylum. Britain closed the doors of what is now Israel to them. They had no place to go.So they were murdered by the Nazis and their willing executioners throughout Europe. There is no group whose history entitles it to a safe and secure homeland more than the Jewish people. For reasons that are difficult to explain, the hatred of the Jewish people and its nation defies rationality, but it is as real as the gas chambers of Auschwitz ­Birkenau and the emerging Fascist parties of Greece and Hungary. Jews today continue to be scapegoated in many parts of the world, and their nation state is demonized at the United Nations, on university campuses, in the media and in legislative assemblies. Following the Holocaust, there seemed to be an understanding that Jews would no longer be victimized. Now less than a century after the Nazis came to power, that moratorium on Jew­hatred seems to have expired, as the memory of the Holocaust grows dim in most parts of the world. My weeklong visit to hell reaffirmed my commitment to defend Israel’s right to exist, to speak out for Israel when it is unfairly attacked, and to defeat its enemies in the marketplace of ideas. We owe nothing less to the victims of the worst crime in the history of humanity—a crime that could not have occurred without the complicity of most of the world. And a crime that will not recur if there is a strong and secure Israel.

Annual Reading of the Names

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Ruth Weiner speaking at the Asian Studies Academy


An Evening of Hope