SOMERS, N.Y. - Artworks featuring vivid depictions of the human race’s most horrific human rights violations lined the halls leading up to the Somers High School auditorium Wednesday, May 4, for the Somers Holocaust Memorial Commission’s “An Evening of Remembrance.”
The annual event, dedicated to honoring the memories of those who lost their lives during the Holocaust, included performances by the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance and the Somers High School band, choir and orchestra, in addition to an address and performance by the keynote speaker and cantor, Deborah Katchko-Gray, of the congregation Shir Shalom in Ridgefield, Conn.
The artwork displayed was the culmination of the 10th grade history civil rights unit, during which students were asked to create a unique project to memorialize past atrocities.
The project has been a part of the unit for the past five years at Somers and this year students could enter pieces that applied to the Holocaust for a chance to receive the Fred Bachner Student Project Award. Awards were given to students from North Salem High School and Somers High School.
The importance of the project, and studying past atrocities in general, was stressed by Somers High School Principal Mark Bayer during his speech, when he said the night was a reminder of how powerful hatred in the forms of xenophobia, intolerance and fanaticism can be if left “unchecked and unchallenged.”
Bayer addressed the nation’s current political climate and the importance of reflecting on past events while moving forward.
“The rhetoric of religious, ethnic and racial prejudice that is being used by many should call us all to action to speak out against all forms of hatred,” Bayer said. He cited homophobia and Islamophobia as examples.
The conclusion of the 10th grade human rights unit comes on the heels of several schoolwide human rights initiatives such as the student council’s efforts to raise money for clean water in Uganda, and a panel discussion on the Syrian refugee crisis, said Somers social studies teacher Stephanie Catania.
The event concluded with a candle ceremony and memorial prayer led by Rabbi Fred Schwalb of the Hebrew Congregation of Somers.
“We study history and we keep events like the holocaust fresh in our minds not only as a form of remembrance to those who lost their lives but also to teach us that as human beings who all share this planet it is our collective responsibility to ensure that these atrocities are not repeated,” Bayer said. “Unfortunately, religious intolerance and intolerance in general is alive and well even in the year 2016.”