School News Teens/Student Happenings

Jewish Students Encounter the Holocaust

Peter Hill, the son of survivors, talks about the memorial.

AMHERST – On an island between Congress and Union streets, six hollow glass towers, carved with six million numbers, rise above a black granite walkway. Below each tower, coals smolder in pits six feet deep, and each pit bears the name of a Nazi death camp. This is the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, and during a recent field trip, students from the Jewish Community of Amherst passed beneath these towers, ducked through plumes of smoke, stared down at the coals through slatted steel grates, and tipped their heads back to behold the 54-foot columns capped with blue squares of sky.
The field trip was part of the Jewish Community of Amherst’s Kehila class for 8th and 9th graders: “Member of the Tribe: What does it mean to be Jewish?”. Eight students—Julianna Cinner, Nathan Ellis, Gabriel Fontes, Jeremy Levine, Allie Ryan-Ackerman, Isaac Siegel, Kira Weilerstein and Nina Wolff Landau—participated, accompanied by their teacher, Daniel Edelstein, and the Director of Teen Programming, Rachael Goren-Watts. The itinerary included a guided tour of the New England Holocaust Memorial with Peter Hill, the son of Holocaust survivors, and a meeting with Holocaust survivor Edgar Krasa.
Krasa shared his story with the students at his home in Newton, Massachusetts. Krasa was a cook in the Czechoslovakian ghetto of Terezin, a position he took to keep his parents from being sent to a labor camp. He was later transported to Auschwitz. He managed to escape from the death camp and immigrated to the United States. After listening to Krasa, one student commented: “Hearing firsthand experience that a person had during the Holocaust was a very emotional experience. I have learned about the Holocaust, but hearing it in this detail made it that much…worse and disturbing.”
The field trip ended with dinner at Brandeis University and reflections on the day’s events. Eighth grader Julianna Cinner noted: “It was a good bonding experience for all of us,” and her classmates Kira Weilerstein and Allie Ryan-Ackerman added, “The whole day made us feel much more connected to our heritage.”


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