I enjoy supporting and participating in activities that relate to the Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project. And today I feel it’s important to share my experience as I joined 450 CCSD students and their teachers at the 2016 Edythe Katz Holocaust Education Student/Teacher Conference held at the Sands Expo Center. As the conference brochure explains, the event “is a result of the dedication and perseverance of Edythe Katz and Roz Sbarra. Without their devotion to the cause of Holocaust education, this event would have never been offered to Clark County School District teachers and students over the pat twenty years.”
The theme of the conference, Child Survivors and Their Lessons: Illuminating the Future, was memorably explored through guest speakers and a play produced by the Del Sol Academy of Performing Arts.
As the audience of high school and middle school students with their instructors filed in, I was struck by the diversity and engaged attention each gave to the honor of being chosen to attend the conference. Together we sat soundlessly before a darkened stage awaiting the play I Never Saw Another Butterfly, which is based on a book of the same name. The book is a touching collection of poetry and art by Jewish children who lived in Terezin during the scourge of the Holocaust; most of whom died. In a few moments young actors who were just learning about the Holocaust would be portraying the stories and suffering of the child victims.
Softly and firmly, a young man wearing a cap took center stage and the mesmerizing performance began. As other actors, all dressed completely in black, joined the stage, a narrator solemnly spoke names of children who perished through appalling conditions of the ghetto and extermination in Auschwitz. The cruel hands of the Nazis were felt but never seen as the narrative unfolded on stage; slides of the children’s artwork filled screens nearby.
Under the impressive direction of Tim Beringer, the student actors from Del Sol Academy of Performing Arts had explored, scripted, and rehearsed their performance for this conference. It was a haunting depiction by young people learning about the travesty of the Holocaust. As impactful was the post-performance question-and-answer session. Audience members asked specific questions about crafting the play, selecting poems to read, and wanting to understand how the actors might have been emotionally affected by their participation.
Mazel tov for a job well done. Applause to the annual conference organizers and participants. The Governor’s Advisory Council on Education Relating to the Holocaust committee members include: Doug Unger, chairperson, Roger West, Jayne Malorni, Myra Berkvits, Susan Dubin, Beth Weinberger, Ray Fiol, Sharon Carter and Esther Finder. Holocaust survivor speakers who shared personal life experiences with the students included: Leon Malmed, Esther Finder, Gene Greenberg, Anne Jenner, Stan Rubens and Daisy Miller.