School Story Submissions
EMSB Teacher’s Holocaust Education experience
Riva and Thomas O. Hecht Scholarship, Teaching of the Holocaust for Educators Program
As an art specialist, the word Holocaust and genocide have never surfaced in my art classroom before. My teaching practice can be described as “safe.” I have never really pushed my students to think beyond how to use a 6B pencil in a still life drawing.
Julie Etheridge is the head of the Visual Arts Department at the EMSB’s Vincent Massey Collegiate.
How Paul Martin gave student “Options”
By Gabrielle Harvey
Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin came to speak to students at Options I and II High Schools in Ville Émard recently, where I am in Secondary IV. Frankly, I didn’t know much about Mr, Martin before he came, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting anything interesting. In fact, I thought this would be another boring assembly.
Gabrielle Harvey is a Secondary IV student at Options II Alternative High School of the English Montreal School Board and a resident of St. Laurent
A memorable experience for a teacher studying the Holocaust in Israel
By Jason Lipstein
This past summer I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in the Yad Vashem International Seminar for Educations in Israel, which was sponsored by Riva and Thomas O. Hecht. It is with great gratitude and joy that I have been given this platform to write about this amazing and tremendous gift that I received. No words can describe what I felt each and every day in Israel, and I’m truly sad it had to come to an end.
Each day we learned from great scholars, historians, and professionals on the Holocaust. Each one had something unique to share with our group. The subject matter was difficult at times to deal with (as it should be), yet our group was very open to learning and everyone involved gained a much deeper perspective of the horrors that the victims and survivors of the Holocaust experienced. People were in tears, I was in tears. There were moments of great sadness, yet coupled with moments of joy as well. It was an emotional rollercoaster.
Our group consisted of 41 people from all over the world, two from India, some from the United States, some from Europe, and the majority from Montreal. We were a great bunch and we had a lot of fun together. Our expert guide he took us on an amazing journey throughout Jerusalem and other historical sites, allowing us to learn a great deal from him about the historical aspects of Israel. On two occasions I had the opportunity to visit the parents of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. His parents live in a tent just around the corner from our hotel and right outside the Prime Minister’s office. It was a very difficult experience for me. I honestly had little words to say to them, but shared in their ongoing grief for their son, who has spent now over 5 years as a prisoner.
As part of the Yad Vashem International Seminar for Educators, I must take a moment to write about the tremendous efforts of Stephanie and Ephrayim Kaye at Yad Vashem. In a nutshell, they were like parents to us and took us in as if we were their own children. The knowledge that they have on the Holocaust seems so unattainable by the average person. Ephrayim can talk about the Holocaust from so many angles, and his knowledge of Jewish history and Israel is just mind-blowing. Stephanie relates the tragedies of the Shoah from a very deep place in her heart. She speaks softly, and slowly, moving you back in time right to the event itself. Stephanie was my mentor, and on a personal level understood my own Jewish dilemmas and goals in life. I am very thankful that the next time I go to Israel there will be a place at their Shabbat table for me. I can only hope to bring forth their knowledge and emotion when I return to General Vanier Elementary School in September.
One of my favorite lecturers was Musicologist Tamar Machado. She gave an interesting account about how one of the Sonderkommandos was trying to use music to relay the message about what was going on inside the gas chambers. The Sonderkommandos were work units inside the death camps. They were almost all Jewish workers, who were forced to aid with the disposal of individuals who were killed in the gas chambers. Tamar spoke about a Sonderkommando who would sing outside a window details of what he was seeing inside. It was a moving experience, and one that I will share with my students this coming school year. My intention this year is to bring forth what I learned to my upper level, cycle 3 students. They will be learning songs of the Holocaust and singing them, both in class, and I hope, in a public performance. We will also be learning on what went on inside the camps and ghettos with a focus on the musicians themselves, who they were, what their backgrounds were, who they played for, what obstacles they were faced with day in and day out and what role they played in "the resistance" against the Nazi Regime. We will focus on the music that was played, and how it was used to send out messages from the victims of the Shoah themselves. We will ask questions such as, how did the music of the holocaust survive? What inspired these people to compose music while living under such brutality? We will have open dialogue, and discussion in order to try to grapple some of the questions and difficulties raised with this most sensitive topic and how all of these great "musicians" weren't just "musicians". They were people, and how they were all led down the road to the inevitable final solution.
On a personal note, Mrs. Liz Elzby at Yad Vashem provided me with an opportunity I thought would never come: the ability to find my late great uncle Beryl’s records. My Uncle survived the war, and I grew up with him until the age of about 10, when he passed away. We always knew on his left arm he had a “number”. He never really talked about the Shoah, or his experience except for an interview that he did once with my cousin Jamie for a CEGEP project years ago. Unfortunately, the tape was lost. I, however, was granted with a gift at Yad Vashem. Using the ITS search in the archives library I was able to pull out approximately 50 pages of information about my late great uncle Beryl’s experience in the war and afterwards. He was put in the Kutno Ghetto, then Rabella and Kustryn. Unbeknownst to many of us, he was in three concentration camps: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Theresienstadt. Since we knew he had a number, it meant for sure that he was in Auschwitz since that was the only concentration camp that gave out numbers. And since I remember him as a short, stocky guy, I reasoned to myself that he was used for laboring purposes. His papers continue to read that he was in Munich, Germany after he was liberated. While he wanted to go to Uruguay, instead, he made his way to Tel Aviv via France for a short time He finally came to North America by moving to Kentucky, where the records indicate that he might have gotten married “Tzipora”. While we do not know much about her, the papers indicate that he eventually made his way to Montreal, in fact, one of his papers actually says, “left for Canada” on it. One of the ways that I was able to recognize that it was really his papers was the fact that it says, “Schneider” on his papers as his occupation. This means he was a tailor. As a child, he made me a beautiful blue suit, which I wore to one of my cousins Bar Mitzvahs. I have more research to do in order to better understand these documents, but the fact that I have them has brought him back to life for our family for a brief moment in time. It’s truly something very special to us and again it wouldn’t have happened without this wonderful experience.
I can’t wait to see the faces of my students when I bring copies of my late great uncle Beryl’s papers to show them in my classroom. When they see these papers I’m sure they’ll have an even greater sense and feeling of the realities and traumas that the victims of the Shoah went through. I am forever greateful to Mr. and Mrs. Hecht and all the other sponsors who have helped to contribute for all educators to study the Holocaust at Yad Vashem. This seminar is of the utmost importance for the future of all peoples and students of the world in order to draw life lessons from the Shoah. It may become difficult to carry this message onward 50 years from now without this type of education. The remaining survivors of the Holocaust unfortunately will not be around forever to share their stories personally. We must never forget. And this is why the educational aspect of the Holocaust must always continue to grow stronger daily. We must support this education, and support the work that is done at Yad Vashem for years to come.
Sister pays tribute to younger brother’s $4,000 “Shave to Save”
By Lianna Marie Curiale
Every year, during the month of October, Virgin Radio and Dormez-Vous host a fundraiser called Shave to Save. The proceeds are donated to the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. This fundraiser consists of a person or group of people who raise a minimum of $2,000 a person in order to have a professional hairstylist from La Coupe downtown come to their workplace and shave their head.
This year, my younger brother Massimo Curiale, a Grade 8 student at Royal West Academy in Montreal West, decided to participate. With the help of friends, family and the students and staff at RWA, he raised over $4,000. On Tuesday October 12 at lunch, Tony Stark and Phil from Virgin Radio and a hairstylist from La Coupe came to Royal West and shaved Massimo’s head, in front of his friends and family.
Growing up, my brother and I have come to understand, that everyone, whether directly or indirectly, has been affected by cancer. Although we are extremely fortunate to be healthy and happy, we have been through some tough times. Those difficulties are what made Massimo realize it was time for him to help out, but what drove him to shave his head is our mother Rosetta, who works as a head nurse at Saint Mary’s Hospital. She inspires us to be strong because she deals with the initial shock of everyone`s medical issues first, then comes home and eases the situation for us. Everything that we’ve been through went through her first. She deals with medical problems thrown at her on the work side and on the personal side. Some of the hardest things she’s had to deal with are the things that make her our guardian angel. She was there when our grandfather was diagnosed and died from lung cancer, she was there when our grandmother broke both her hip and shoulder and was unable to take care of herself and she was there when our aunt Pina Curiale, was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. She takes it upon herself to take care of everyone and without her, we know that our grandmother and aunt would not be where they are today. She is the true inspiration for everything Massimo has done for cancer research.
Massimo’s shave was a huge success and he hopes that what he contributed will help in finding a cure. As his older sister, I look up to him as my inspiration. He is so brave and so good, and he is everything I hope to be. I am very proud of him and who he has become.
A special thanks to Sadie Di Pietro, a community worker at Royal West Academy, staff, students and our exceptional group of friends, colleagues, and cherished family members for helping Massimo achieve his goal.
An extraordinary pedagogical experience in Israel
By Gail Jebson
Evening approaches. The setting sun casts a golden glow on the city of Yerushalayim, Jerusalem. The buildings, covered in Jerusalem stone, reflect the colours of the desert on which the country is built, and give a hint to the many treasures hidden within its ancient walls. For over three weeks, I had the privilege of roaming the streets of this extraordinary city, exploring its history and cultures. “B’vakashah”… the local people always made me feel welcome.
Westmount High School: Experience in Israel
Todah - An Awesome Experience in Israel
My trip to Israel last summer, via the Teaching of the Holocaust for Educators
I am interested in the Shoah (Holocaust) because I am interested in humanity. I believe that protecting our own humanity, as well as the future of students’ humanity, is one of the biggest task for teachers.
Being an Ethics and Religious Culture teacher at Westmount High School, it is easy to see that our shared foundation is our humanity, diversity and respect. Westmount High is unique because we genuinely experience religious, racial, cultural and ethnic harmony and is the perfect breeding ground to understand how to honour and respect one another’s humanity and right to live peacefully and without persecution. So, when I was given the golden opportunity to get first hand experiences of Israel, which is often misrepresented as war zone, I jumped at the chance! Israel is actually a centre of blossoming peace. And even if there were some conflicts, then I am not one to shy away from anything tension. I applied to the T-H-E Program and luckily I was one of the recipients of the Riva and Thomas Hecht Scholarship. So, I was on my way to Israel.
Upon my arrival in Israel, I soon realized that was in a sacred place and time. One of the reasons Israel is so special to me is that it holds a special place for me in my life. I believe those lands are truly blessed and touched by God. And for me to be able to be in God’s holy land was a blessing.
After my initial star struck and jet lag, the Yad Vashem Education Series started on a bright Sunday morning. The Shoah education program is 23 days and classes are held at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. This is an intense, yet essential, Holocaust education program. Throughout our time at Yad Vashem in Israel, we were constantly exposed to life.
Honestly, my head is still swelling with information and emotions. I am still in the process of digesting the entire trip and experience. Yet, one thing that sticks out for me is the importance of responsibility. One lesson that struck me to my cord during my time there was the one of the bystander. It infuriated, saddened and boggled to know that at some point in history, and presently that we hang up our humanity and watch other humans destroy and steal life from others.
In Israel, I wanted and needed to believe that we as humans could not stand by and watch others self-destruct through the murder of others. As a result of this passion not to be a bystander, I knew I wanted to communicate this message to my students – we do not have to be bystanders! To help me build on my teaching on not being a bystander, I researched the Righteous Among Nations in Yad Vashem. During the Shoah, there were people, non –Jews, who took great personal risks and endangered their families to help or hide a Jew or their families. I found the hope that I desperately needed at this point of the trip. I had the chance to meet Shoah survivors that were hidden or save and listen to their stories about survival. Their testimonies were inspirational, and I was in awe of their capacity to share their tragedies with us and to move forward. The desire to live and learn is so obvious in the Yad Vashem program and as a participant you are looking for hope even the darkest corners. I want and preparing to help my students to learn how they can help even in the most desperate situations.
My trip to Israel rejuvenated my power to act, to choose the best way to act for me and just do it. All of our actions, though different are powerful, and all make an impact. I hope that I can instil in my students the same essence that was instilled in me, that by standing is not an option. Israel was a trip of a lifetime and I can only hope that I will get to visit this fantastic country again!!!
Roslyn: Fight for Freedom
Roslyn students “Fight for Freedom”
"Fight For Freedom," yelled the students as they raised their hands together in a cheer. This triumphant moment is how the Grades 3 and 4 students from room 114 at Roslyn Elementary School in Westmount wrap up every weekly meeting for their fight against poverty.
The next phase of their Fight for Freedom project is called “Springtime at Roslyn." During their weekly Fight for Freedom meetings, the students from class 114 came up with many ideas on how to raise the money. They finally decided to sell potted spring flowers with their artwork on tags attached to pots for 5.00$ each. They worked hard on their springtime drawings and worked as a team to attach the tags on the flowerpots. Together they have decided to use the money raised to support Free the Children (www.freethechildren.com), the world’s largest organization of children helping children through education. The primary goals of this organization are to free children from poverty and exploitation and teach young people that they can effect positive change in the world. Specifically they decided to support the educational program aspect of Free the Children’s “Adopt a Village” campaign. This program provides all the necessary tools and resources for effective learning and health care services for children living in poverty. Finally, class 114 invited representative Gab Desmond from Free the Children to educate and to inspire all Roslyn students about thecharity.
Justin Trudeau Visits St. Laurent Adult Centre