Eileen Hildenbrand, chairperson of the English Department at Lansdale Catholic High School, expressed her delight at learning that her school will soon receive a coveted prize from the sponsors of the recent Mordechai Anielewicz Creative Arts Competition on the Holocaust — the Clara Isaacman Memorial Holocaust Trunk: "This generous gift, valued at more than $1,500, will provide our students with a wealth of Holocaust educational materials that we did not currently have, and will be utilized by our students in a variety of subjects."
Hildenbrand explained that the Holocaust is explored through the prism of many subject areas at the school, including English, social studies and theology.
"It is an important topic for our students, who are not only United States citizens, but also citizens of the world," she said, adding that "since we are a Catholic school, our students need to learn about other groups."
Hildenbrand said she hopes that this knowledge will help to promote tolerance, understanding and respect for others.
She also said that she believes the motto so closely associated with Holocaust education — "Remember not to forget" — has great relevance in today's society.
"Genocide is a current problem in many parts of the world; perhaps we can learn from the past how to address this issue today," she pondered.
This is the third time Hildenbrand's students have been honored by the competition's judges.
"We encourage our students to enter because it is through the arts that students can explore and express their feelings," she said.
Students in her English I class created commemorative postage stamps to honor those lost in the Holocaust and/or those Righteous Gentiles who acted to prevent the loss of Jewish lives.
Hildenbrand emphasized that "the role of the Righteous Gentile is especially relevant for our students."
This project was the culminating activity in the students' exploration of the Holocaust. In preparation, they read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Seniors viewed the movie "Schindler's List," while freshmen saw "Miracle at Midnight" to emphasize the role that many Christians played in saving friends and neighbors from the hands of the Nazis.
To help these young people understand the concept of 6 million Holocaust victims, several student groups also saw "Paper Clips," a movie that documented one school's project to collect one paper clip for each Jewish life lost.
Hildenbrand's colleague, Elizabeth Burgoon, helped her senior class to create scrapbooks that marked the lives of various fictional people who lived during the Holocaust through letters and pictures. To prepare for this competition entry, students read Night by Elie Weisel and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a book by Irish novelist John Boyne that was recently made into an award-winning movie.
Throughout the course of their school experience, the Catholic students will have much exposures to Holocaust studies, as well as ample opportunity for discussion. Said Hildenbrand: "We are trying to help them gain knowledge about a very dark period in history and learn from the past how to create a better world."
The multimedia entries from Lansdale Catholic High School students and other competition participants were displayed from June 3 through June 15 at the Moore College of Art & Design.
Award winners were honored during a ceremony at the college on June 8.
The Mordechai Anielewicz Creative Arts Competition, now in its 36th year, provides students in grades seven to 12, of all religious and ethnic backgrounds, with a chance to respond to the Holocaust and its related issues through creative expression. Students are encouraged to submit original written, musical, art, film and creative dance works that focus on Holocaust themes.
The contest is sponsored by the Memorial Committee for the Six Million Jewish Martyrs of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education, in cooperation with the Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, Sons and Daughters of Holocaust Survivors, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors Association of Philadelphia, Samuel Pelta Holocaust Education Endowment, Jewish Publication Society and Moore College of Art & Design. It is named in honor of Mordechai Anielewicz, the 19-year-old leader of the Jewish revolt against the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto.