Holocaust remembrance and education was the focus of UCC’s assembly and advising sessions during the week of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his official statement, is an opportunity to "remember and pay tribute to the more than six million Jews who were systematically persecuted and murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, and the millions of other victims of Nazi atrocities. …We will continue to share their stories of courage, hope, and perseverance against unspeakable evil, so that the pain and loss endured during the Shoah will never be forgotten."
At UCC, Michelle Glied-Goldstein, daughter of the late Toronto Holocaust survivor Bill Glied, brought her father’s experiences to life for students through a presentation that combined video of Glied discussing his Holocaust experiences with historical photos and commentary. As part of the Carrying Testimony project, Glied told of being removed from the school soccer team in his native Yugoslavia because he was Jewish and of a classmate telling him that they couldn’t be friends any longer because the boy’s father didn’t want him associating with Jews.
"With Holocaust survivors aging and dying, it’s important for us to honour their memories and learn about the Holocaust in different ways," says Rachel Metalin, the Upper School English teacher and senior house adviser who organized the assembly. "The children of survivors interview their parents and show clips of their conversations, interspersed with commentary to fill gaps in the stories."
The students were "riveted," says Metalin, who leads student Holocaust education trips to Germany and Poland and hopes to continue after the pandemic.
"The response was overwhelming and we had really interesting discussions about it in my advising group and in my classes,” she adds. “The idea was to get students to think about how people in our community feel 'othered' at any time."
The following day, student advising sessions focused on the Holocaust using various discussion options formulated by Metalin and Laurie Fraser, UCC’s coordinator of student wellbeing. Advisers chose among them, depending on the grade level of the group, and fostered conversations about topics such as antisemitism and the recent hostage-taking at a Texas synagogue.
"We need to be able to separate our understanding of Jewish identity from the conflict in the Middle East," Metalin says. "Israeli government policies are separate from Jewish identity and it’s never permissible to use these feelings as justification for antisemitism."
As Trudeau notes in his statement, "We all have a responsibility to stop the seeds of intolerance and hate from taking root or spreading in our communities, our country, and our world. On this day, let us all come together and repeat the vow ‘Never Again’."