Watchung Hills High School Students Visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Natasha Yankaskas, left, of Millington, was among the 20 students in the college-level honors section of the Holocaust & Genocide Honors class, taught at Watchung Hills Regional High School by Social Studies teacher Ryan Murray, right, who traveled on Thursday, Oct. 16, to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Since 2010, Murray has incorporated the trip into the class curriculum. Several students described the experience as being both understandably “heavy” and “overwhelming,” but also helpful to the understanding about just how widespread was the intolerance against Jews under the Nazi regime in Germany and other countries in Europe leading up to and during World War II. Credits: Denis J. Kelly

WARREN, NJ – Twenty students in the elective, college-level honors section of the Holocaust & Genocide class at Watchung Hills Regional High School traveled to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Oct. 16, to meet a Holocaust survivor and get a better understanding of just how widespread the intolerance toward Jews under the Nazi regime in Germany and other countries in Europe before and during World War II. For more information about the Holocaust Memorial Museum, go to

Students in the regular sections of the Holocaust & Genocide course augment their classroom studies with visits to the Museum of Jewish heritage in Battery Park City in downtown Manhattan,, and the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center in Glen Cove in Nassau County, N.Y. And in the bus during the way down and back to Washington, D.C., the students viewed several films related to their Holocaust studies.

Likewise, this year’s fall dramatic production by the Script and Cue student theater group is “The Diary of Anne Frank.” It is about a Holocaust victim in Holland, who along with others eluded capture by the Nazis for two years by remaining hidden in a secret space in a building where her father worked. After the hiding place was discovered, and Frank was taken to the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany, and died there in 1945. The Diary of Anne Frank will be performed on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Nov. 20, 21 and 22, in the school’s Performing Arts Center.

Sign Up for E-News

The Holocaust and Genocide course at Watchung Hills has been taught since 2010 by Social Studies teacher Ryan Murray. Since 2010, the annual enrollment has grown to more than 150 students, and has been expanded to include a separate honors class which provides students with the opportunity to receive college credit in conjunction with the Kean University course, “Holocaust, Genocide, and Modern Humanities.” Murray, who has a master’s degree in Holocaust & Genocide Studies at Kean University, has worked on numerous school-wide initiatives such as guest speakers, class trips, fundraisers and programs to help foster genocide awareness. This is the fourth year Murray has brought his students to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and it was the 10th time he, himself, had visited the museum. “Every time, I see something more, something different that I hadn’t seen previously,” he said.

Every time, he walks away with something different, he said, but it never gets easier to see what the museum teaches. Among the students who went this year, Natasha Yankaskas of Millington, Nate DiBari of Warren Township, and Lauren Picone of Gillette, all said that while they while visiting the museum once is not enough to take in all it has to offer, and they would like to return some day to try to take in more of what they saw, still they would need to wait a period to let what they did see sink in. “It was heavy,” said Yankaskas. “It takes a heavy toll on you.” “It was overwhelming,” said DiBari. “I had been there before,” said Picone, “but everything there leaves a very heavy impact. More than what we hear about it in class. Yes, I would go back, but not right away. It is very intense.” Yankaskas, DiBari and Picone all agreed that the museum helped them to understand just how widespread the holocaust was.

Murray said classroom instruction for the course covers the history of anti-semitism and hatred against the Jews in Europe. It also covers the historic origins and conditions in Germany at the time of the rise of the Nazi regime in the decades between World War I and World War II. While the class covers the historical facts of the millions and millions of people, Jews and others, who were massacred during the Holocaust, Murray said the course makes a point of going far beyond the statistics. “The course talks about the individual human beings and families who were involved,” Murray said. “We meet survivors.”

At the Museum in Washington, the students were greeted by a woman known as “Helena,” who is a Holocaust survivor, Murray said. Like Anne Frank, she was hidden by “upstanders,” that is, people who take positive action in the face of injustice. In Helena’s case, she was hidden by assuming the identity of a Roman Catholic. Murray said this is an example of a theme that he covers in the Holocaust & Genocide class. “Events like the Holocaust shows the worst in humanity,” said Murray, “but it also shows the best. You can see the best in those people who helped survivors like Helena. They refused to give in. They refused to turn their backs.”

Murray said he has spoken to the cast of the Watchung Hills production of The Diary of Anne Frank, telling them that they are doing their part to make sure the story doesn’t go away. He told them it is everyone’s responsibility to fight prejudice and discrimination. In November 2011, Murray sponsored a month-long program at Watchung Hills aimed at genocide awareness and social action. The program included a traveling museum display honoring “upstanders” during the Holocaust, and concluded with a school-wide assembly featuring a Rwandan Genocide survivor and activist, Jacqueline Murekatete. That year, the Watchung Hills students raised more than $3,000 to help fund a humanitarian center in Rwanda. Now, the school often uses the concept, “be an upstander, not a bystander,” as a call to action to be more socially aware.

In April 2012, Murray was awarded the Jack Zaifman Humanitarian Award for his work in Holocaust education. One of Murray’s initiatives is to hopefully see the expansion of Holocaust education. It is currently only mandated by five states. In 2013, Murray was a key speaker at Kean University’s panel discussion about the state mandate on Holocaust education. Among the other speakers on the panel were former Gov. Tom Kean Sr. and Paul Winkler, executive director of the N.J. Commission on Holocaust & Genocide.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Somerset Regional Animal Shelter Offering July Adoption Promotion for Cats/Kittens

July 10, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, in Bridgewater, is urgently looking for homes for its cats and kittens.

According to a release from the shelter, the population surges throughout the summer during kitten breeding season, and so the shelter is launching a special promotion to help increase cat and kitten adoptions. During the month of July, all cats and kittens that over ...

Do You Recognize These Dogs?

PLAINFIELD, NJ - Two dogs were found in Plainfield near the fire station on Central Avenue on Saturday. 

The dogs are currently with a family in South Plainfield.  If you recognize the dogs, please email TAPinto Plainfield at

A Hidden Gem in the Suburbs – Spring Academy Montessori Pre-School helps children reach their full potential by fostering an innate love of learning!

July 16, 2018

Located on a quiet residential street in Warren, NJ, Spring Academy Montessori Preschool opened its doors to the public in late November 2016.  Spring Academy wanted to fill a niche that was missing in the community -- a pre-school with a Montessori philosophy combined with an emphasis on language immersion.  Since then, parents have been coming from all over to enroll their children in ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, July 25, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sings Conclude with Verdi ...

Arts & Entertainment

Wed, October 3, 7:00 PM

SCLSNJ's Warren Township Library branch, Warren

A History of the Old Presbyterian Graveyard in ...

Government Other


Jul 28, 1955 - Feb 8, 2018
Owner/Chef of Jaret’s Stuffed Cupcakes  Beloved Husband, Father, Brother and ...
Read more

Get Ready Warren: Fireworks, Food and Family Fun At Mt. Carmel Feast

July 13, 2018

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. – It’s time again for the annual Mt. Carmel Feast, a four-day festival full of food, music, games, rides, fireworks, and other family fun, located at Mt. Carmel Field in Berkeley Heights.

The fairgrounds will be open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, July 13 through Monday, July 16. Those four nights will include concerts, games, and ...

Somerset Regional Animal Shelter Offering July Adoption Promotion for Cats/Kittens

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, in Bridgewater, is urgently looking for homes for its cats and kittens.

According to a release from the shelter, the population surges throughout the summer during kitten breeding season, and so the shelter is launching a special promotion to help increase cat and kitten adoptions. During the month of July, all cats and kittens that over ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

White Supremacist Actions Denounced

July 19, 2018

SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ - Two groups denounced Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group posting of fliers in multiple Central New Jersey towns. Both statements lay blame on President Donald Trump.

The New Jersey Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) and the Somerset County Democratic Committee issued statements today. 

"The promotion of a racist and ...

White Supremacist Fliers Found in Central New Jersey Towns

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Residents of Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and surrounding communities are mobilizing for action after they found posters around town promoting Identity Evropa, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has labeled a white supremacist group.

According to Bridgewater resident Stacey Friedlander, a member of the “Not In Our Town – Bridgewater/Raritan” ...

Viewing and Funeral Mass Set for 1-Year-Old Boy Killed in July 7 Crash, Fundraiser Established

RARITAN, NJ - A viewing for the 1-year-old Raritan boy killed on Anderson Street July 7 will be held this week at St. Ann Church in Raritan, according to an obituary released by the Bongiovi Funeral Home.

Matias Ortega-Rosales was killed on the evening of his first birthday when a vehicle hit two cars and then his family as he was being pushed in a stroller by his mother, Domitila Rosales.

Bedminster Woman Dies From Injuries After Being Struck by Car in Mall Parking Lot

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A Bedminster woman has died from her injuries after being struck by a car in the parking lot of the Bridgewater Commons Mall Monday.

Marion Kelley, 62, was struck by a vehicle while walking in lot four near the Macy's merchandise pick up area at around 3:20 p.m. Monday.

The 2017 Mazda was driven by Chinmayi Parikh, 33, of Piscataway.

The crash is still being ...

3rd Annual Meadowlands BBQ Battle a Smokin’ Success

July 18, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Seven competitors battled it out at Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment's 3rd Annual BBQ Battle on Saturday, July 14, all vying for $2,000 in prizes and most importantly, bragging rights. 

The BBQ categories of best Ribs, Brisket, Chicken, and Pulled Pork, came with a $500 prize to the winner of each category. A panel of five judges conducted a blind ...

3-Day ‘AddamsFest’ set to Celebrate Charles Addams and His Creations This Fall

WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s creepy. It’s kooky. And it’s taking over Westfield from Oct 26 to 28. AddamsFest, a town-wide celebration honoring Westfield native Charles Addams and his most famous creations, The Addams Family, will be a destination event this fall with family-friendly activities, lectures, exhibits and film screenings, the town announced Thursday.

Watch the ...

Make the Call, Save a Life

July 10, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - There is much focus on preventative opioid abuse education. Rightfully so. However, the goal in addressing the opioid epidemic is saving lives. Even if that means just saving one life. While people are becoming increasingly aware of resources relating to rehabilitative services, support groups for friends and family of addicts, and training parents for signs of opioid and ...