On Monday, January 27, the seventh and eighth graders of Kinneret Day School attended “75 Years After Auschwitz,” the United Nations’ official Holocaust Memorial Ceremony. Each year since 2006, the UN has marked January 27, as their International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
This year’s ceremony took place 75 years to the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp by the Soviet army. The program was led by UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming. Distinguished speakers included UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the president of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, and the permanent representatives of Germany, Israel and the United States. Two Holocaust survivors, Shraga Milstein and Irene Shashar, addressed the attendees, as well.
Judge Theodor Meron, former president of the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, delivered the keynote speech. Cantor Shulem Lemmer recited the El Maleh Rachamim and Ani Ma’amin, while famed violinist Itzhak Perlman also performed.
Yali Szulanski, a KDS teacher, explained, “The seventh grade studies a Holocaust unit, and presents their own commemoration ceremony every year on Yom HaShoah.” Szulanski added that a KDS parent works at the UN and “has very kindly invited us to attend the commemoration ceremony on International Holocaust Day for several years. This year, I felt that it was important for our students to go.” A delegation of 46 students attended the commemoration ceremony, together with smaller groups from several other yeshivas and day schools.
Szulanski continued, “Our seventh grade has been talking about life for Jewish families before and during World War II, and the significant impact of the Holocaust on Jewish life, Jewish practices and the continuation of Jewish traditions.” KDS plans to take the seventh and eighth grades to visit The Museum of Jewish Heritage to see the Auschwitz exhibit and hear testimony from survivors who will visit the classroom later this spring. In addition, KDS students have begun to work on projects to present at the school’s commemoration ceremony, based on their learning.
Szulanski summarized, “In the times that we live in, and with the growing distance between the generations of Holocaust survivors and our own children, I felt that it was important for our students to be present, to bear witness, and to become an active part of the future.”
In his charge to the audience, Israel’s Permanent Representative Ambassador Danny Danon proclaimed, “It is our duty to condemn hate. It is not enough to talk. We must act. We must legislate. We must enforce. And we must educate.”