The Importance of Holocaust Education

One of the reasons that the Holocaust took place was that the Nazis convinced their followers that Jews, gypsies, the disabled and homosexuals were fundamentally different – even “subhuman” – from Germans. While Nazi propaganda was extremely powerful, it was only effective because of pre-existing prejudices. Prejudice arises from ignorance. When we are ignorant about people who are different from us – whether in terms of race, religion or ethnicity – it becomes all too easy to see them as “not like us,” and dis- like or fear them. Since the Holocaust, the world has been repeatedly traumatized by racial, religious and ethnic persecution, often rooted in ignorance and fear.

This year’s Holocaust Essay contest will focus on how we can use the lessons of the Holocaust to encourage tolerance, acceptance and respect for others.

 

 

Writing Contest 2019 Writing Prompts

ENTRIES MUST BE POSTMARKED BY MARCH 15

Elementary, grades 3-5 | no more than 150 words

No more than 150 words

Stereotypes are a fixed idea about a group of people.  People have stereotyped “other people” for   centuries and that continues today.  Stereotypes can be about a person’s ethnicity, race or religion.  Many stereotypes tend to be negative. Being part of a particular group does not automatically make you good or bad.  As a society, when we stereotype people a group of people we know nothing about, it can lead to prejudice, discrimination and even violence.

Have you assumed a person is different than you based on the way they look, the color of their skin or their religious beliefs? Tell how you assumed something about someone else based on the way they looked or on their religion.  Tell us why you made the assumption about the other person and if you spent time to get to know this person if they were different than your assumption

 Middle School, grades 6-8 | no more than 250 words

 Today, due to the easy access of news via social media, we are seeing more and more hate speech.  At times it can be hard to separate what are real stories and what are false stories designed to stir up angry feelings.  On October 27, 2018, a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and murdered eleven people.  As he fired his gun, he proclaimed "They're committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews."  These eleven victims were murdered, while they were worshiping, simply for being Jews.

It was reported during the week of February 20, 2017 that at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society  cemetery, a historic century-old Jewish cemetery in University City, a suburb of St. Louis, MO,   vandal(s) toppled and damaged more than 170 headstones. About a week later, more than 100     headstones were overturned and damaged at Mt. Carmel Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in   Philadelphia, PA. The incident was classified as an act of vandalism, and the FBI joined the           investigation to determine whether a hate crime occurred.  Since 2016 there has been a rise by 60% of anti-Semitic crimes in the United States.

Why do you think these incidents are happening now?  What do you think people committing these crimes are trying to accomplish? What should we, as a society, do about it?

 High School, grades 9-12 | 250-500 words

On the morning of October 27, the Sabbath (the Jewish Holy Day) Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA and yelled “All Jews must die,” and opened fire on the  congregants. He was armed with an assault rifle and several handguns and killed eleven congregants and wounded six others, four of whom are police officers. When surrendering to law enforcement, Bowers told an officer that he “wanted all Jews to die” and that Jews “were committing genocide against his people.” This deadly shooting is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the  United States.

The magnitude of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre may be unprecedented, but unfortunately this was only the latest in a series of hate crimes committed against Jewish people in America.  In  February 2017, more than 100 gravestones were vandalized at a cemetery outside of St. Louis,  Missouri and in Philadelphia, more than 75 gravestones were vandalized at a Jewish Cemetery.

Sadly, in the last few years, hate crimes have been on the rise against minority religions, people of color and immigrants.  In the 10 days following the 2016 presidential election, nearly 900 hate-motivated incidents were reported – many of these on our college campuses.

The outpouring of anti-Semitic sentiment is reminiscent in many ways of the political climate during the years between the first and second world wars in the US.

When you first heard about what happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue, what were your thoughts and feelings about it?  What have you learned now that you didn’t know before? How does the  increase in Antisemitism impact our society?

Guidelines:

·       Entries must be typed, double spaced and include a title page that lists the author’s name, school, teacher, grade, phone number and email address.  Submissions missing requested information will automatically be disqualified.  Essays will NOT be returned.

·       Entries must be postmarked by March 15th

·       Teachers may send a MAXIMUM of ten essays per classroom

·       Entries are to be mailed to

Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge

14241 Coursey Blvd., A-12 #377

Baton Rouge, LA 70817

Contest finalists will be contacted ahead of time and winners will be announced at a special Holocaust Memorial Service on Sunday, April 28th at Congregation B’nai Israel, located at 3354 Kleinert Avenue, from 4:00pm – 6:00pm

 Prizes will be awarded in each division of the contest.

1st place           $50 gift card to Barnes & Noble, $50 cash

2nd place          $35 gift card to Barnes & Noble, $25 cash

3rd place           $35 gift card to Barnes & Noble, $20 cash

 If you have any questions, please contact me at 225.379.7393 or via email at ellen.sager@jewishbr.org.