In the 11th annual Holocaust writing contest sponsored by the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, students at the Elkins Park School were asked to jot down their thoughts about the Shoah, using any means of written expression they felt comfortable with – poems, diary entries, songs or stories.
According to Bunny Feingold, a teacher who coordinates special programs and projects at the school, the students were given only this open-ended assignment – and then all imaginable types of entries poured in.
At the final assembly of the school year last week, Judy Wenzel of NCJW honored the three students whose entries stood out from the rest.
Abby Rosenfeld received first place for "Memories of the Holocaust," a free-verse poem written from the point of view of a fictitious survivor. For "A Death in the Holocaust," a poem exploring hatred against the Jews, Ryan Callahan earned second place. Ellen Papacostas, who received third place, wrote a poem about the consequences of prejudice and intolerance titled simply "Holocaust Poem."
Lisa Friedland, a sixth-grade reading and language-arts teacher at the school, said the students had a Holocaust unit in their social-studies classes and read pieces about issues of intolerance. The contest asked the students to meld all of these subjects and express some of their questions, ideas, thoughts and feelings about the topic in their entries, she added.
"It was very interesting to me that [most of the] children – even non-Jews – had the feeling that they had, and it was so evident in their writing," said Wenzel. "They just got it. They really did."