Last week we held our most important event of the year, our annual Yom HaShoah commemoration. As you may remember from our letter from the director in January, this event differs from January’s Holocaust Remembrance Day in its increased degree of sanctity, a holiday that for some is as significant as the High Holy Days. The past few weeks–months, really–we had been working intensely to prepare for this event.
But even though we were having our largest event of the year, don’t let that fool you into thinking that’s all we were working on. The evening before Yom HaShoah, we also held our Waldman International Arts and Writing Award Ceremony, which had an audience of about 100 people. And throughout the week we hosted the Israeli winners of the Waldman competition and took them around the city.
Visiting Student Recap (Monday-Friday of Last Week)
Wednesday 4/11, we held the award ceremony honoring the students who won the Waldman International Arts and Writing Competition. Participants in the competition come from across Allegheny County, and we also receive submissions from students in Israel. As their prize for winning the competition, Israeli winners are brought to Pittsburgh to meet American winners and tour the city.
The winning Israeli students were in town last week from Monday-Sunday, with a packed schedule on top of participating in our two public programs. Some of their activities during their visit included:
- Visiting Rochester High School, Winchester Thurston, and Shaler High School;
- Participating in a Global Learning Experience about the Diary of Anne Frank with Prime Stage Theatre;
- Visiting cultural institutions including the Warhol Museum, Mattress Factory, and Carnegie Museum of Art;
- And of course, participating in some classic Pittsburgh sightseeing, including the Cathedral of Learning and a Ducky Tour!
They were a great group and we already miss them. This trip was made possible through our wonderful partnership with Partnership2Gether (P2G), which pairs regions of Israel with sister cities across the US. Our “sister city” is the Karmiel-Misgav region. Personally, I am looking forward to continuing the cultural exchange and visiting the Karmiel-Misgav region this summer when I am in Israel!
Wednesday: Waldman International Recap
Wednesday evening was when we held the award ceremony for the Waldman International. The event, which was originally going to be held at the Holocaust Center, was moved to the East End Cooperative Ministry to more comfortably accommodate the hundred attendees who ended up joining us that evening. A fun coincidence about having it here is that the President of East End Cooperative Ministry, Michael Mingrone, was actually a winner of the award several years ago! He welcomed the audience along with our director, Lauren.
Our Educator of the Year, Nick Haberman, also accepted his award and spoke on this year’s Waldman topic, Children During the Holocaust. It was a beautiful speech, which spoke to the importance of this work and made sure there was not a dry eye in the house. Our hope is to publicize this speech soon.
The winning visual art and writing pieces were on display for attendees to enjoy, and the winning Israeli films were screened for the whole audience.
Thursday: Yom HaShoah Recap
Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, is the day set aside to remember the approximately six-million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. In Israel, it is a national memorial day. It takes place on the 27th of Nisan in the Jewish calendar. Because the 27th of Nisan changes each year on the secular calendar, the date of the commemoration varies year to year: this year it took place April 11-12. Our commemoration took place at the end of the holiday, on the evening of April 12.
Our commemoration program has prayers and songs that remain consistent through the years, but each year the event features something unique, such as chosen participants and what the year’s theme is. This year’s theme was Twenty Years of Flares of Memory, to honor the 20th year since our publication of the book of memoirs with that name. We had survivors and their families read excerpts from Flares of Memory as they lit candles honoring the six million Jews who died, and there were also candles lit to honor Veterans, Liberators, Righteous Among Nations, and Survivors.
To get more details on what the commemoration consisted of (again, if I dive too far deep that could be its own blog post…), you can check out the PDF version of this year’s program book, which also has lots of other information about the Center and is meant to serve as a valuable educational tool.
We had over 300 attendees at this year’s event from a range of ages and backgrounds, and we considered it a very successful program. In fact, a photo from the event made the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette! Check out this web-based version of the story which shares images from our commemoration and the one held by Community Day School earlier in the day.
As we shared in yesterday’s post, we cannot afford to become complacent in our work or slow down–on the contrary, our team looks forward to expanding our reach in the coming months. Part III of this week’s blog series discusses what we have coming up over the next month.