With readings, Yom Hashoah program builds empathy through narrative


BP Photo by Ezra Fax

MESSAGE: Students and Judaic Studies teacher Mrs. Ruthie Skaist, fourth from left, together analyzed a poem written by a Holocaust survivor.

By Benjamin Zaghi, Ninth Grade

The JCC auditorium was quiet last Thursday as an elderly man spoke of a childhood spent criss-crossing the world.

He was not a tourist.

Dr. Henry Slucki, who was introduced to Shalhevet by the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, is a Holocaust survivor who was never in a concentration camp.  On the morning of Yom Hashoah, the entire school gathered to remember the six million Jews who perished.

Mr. Stucki told the story of his escape from France to Spain, Portugal, Cuba, and finally New York as a young Jewish child. He credited a his gentile landlords in France for saving his life.

 “I wanted to send the message to students that it was important to develop empathy through narrative,” said Judaic Studies teacher Mrs. Ruthie Skaist.

 Mrs. Skaist organized the April 16 program, which was a departure from previous years’ candlelighting ceremonies and visits from concentration camp survivors.

After the speaker, students were divided into groups by grade for two interactive activities.

Groups led by General Studies faculty interpreted a poem written by a survivor of the camps, while Judaic studies teachers discussed questions and responses between members of the Warsaw Ghetto and their rabbi about the risks of escaping.  After 25 minutes, they switched, so everyone got to do both activities.

“I really liked how the school involved both the general studies and Judiac studies faculty in the group activity,” said junior Mati Davis. “It was cool to get those two perspectives on the Holocaust.”

Sophomore Nicole Miles enjoyed listening to an atypical survivor.

“This year’s Yom Ha-shoah assembly exposed the other side of the Holocaust by introducing us to a different kind of Holocuast survivor—a man that turned one of the harshest predicaments of life into something more positive,” said Nicole. 

Editor-in-Chief Alexa Fishman and Features Editor Rose Lipner contributed to this story.