More than 300 people – mainly schoolchildren – came to Manhattan Beach this past Sunday to remember the Holocaust on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, at a ceremony honoring the winners of a Holocaust Essay, Poetry, Performance and Art Contest.
The contest, now in its ninth year, is organized by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and includes more than 600 schoolchildren from 15 public and private schools. Joined by Holocaust survivors, speakers from the Jewish community, and elected officials, students spent the ceremony learning about the deep suffering of one of history’s darkest chapters, and the importance of educating future generations about tolerance.
“This part of history is something that people are still amazed occurred,” Cymbrowitz told Sheepshead Bites. “It’s important that we continue to never forget the horrors that people survived.”
A cellist, choral reading group, poet, films, and chorus all explored themes related to the Holocaust. At the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center’s (60 West End Avenue) entrance, artwork depicted the horrors of the Nazi era, complete with models of concentration camps and even a small coffin with bones.
“It was obvious from the quality of the written entries and artwork submitted to my contest from local public and parochial schools and yeshivas, that the young entrants truly understood what occurred during the Holocaust,” Cymbrowitz stated. “I was amazed at how well they were able to communicate their messages to others.”
Holocaust survivors Ruth Gruener and her husband Jack, discussed their personal survival stories, putting human faces on the history’s coldest moments. Gruener spent eight months hiding from the Nazis with a non-Jewish family, while her husband survived ten concentration camps and two death marches.
Gruener praised the children for being able to make remembrance “more memorable, and even more enjoyable” through their artwork.
“We can only hope that they remember we are all god’s children, no matter our race, religion, or color,” she said.
The awards ceremony was held for the first time this year as a standalone event. In previous years it occurred alongside the Holocaust Memorial gathering in June, but Cymbrowitz said the profound growth justified a day dedicated to the children’s work.
The event was attended by Congressman Anthony Weiner, NY State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, State Senator Carl Kruger, and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky.