"As student interests developed," so did the number of categories for the contest, said Maureen Pelta, a professor of art history at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, and the chair of the competition. It now includes separate categories for both poetry and prose, and visual arts are broken down into 2-D, 3-D and new media.
The competition is sponsored each year by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education. The awards presentation took place in early June at the Moore College of Arts and Design in Philadelphia.
Mordechai Anielewicz, the namesake of the contest, was a leader during the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
For more than 30 years, students from the area have been making art for the competition. This year, there were 437 entries: 305 in the written categories, 123 in the visual arts and nine in multimedia.
The 2007 top winners included: Jane Brendlinger, Melissa Kennedy, Talia Baurer, Julia Sippel and Jacqueline Plunkett in first-place in the writing categories; Michael Jahnle, Daniel Parmet, Ime Divine, Michelle Liu and John Jones in first place in the visual-arts categories; David Rosenfeld and Sophie Coran took the two music prizes; and Emily Green and the Philadelphia High School for Girls Dance Company earned the dance prizes. (For a complete list of winners, contact Amy Blum, director of the Center for Holocaust Awareness at the JCRC, at 215-832-0655.)
As the event has expanded, so has the breadth of the entries. A few years ago, students from the Philadelphia High School for Girls performed a ballet on the Holocaust, said Burt Siegel, director of the Philadelphia JCRC.
"I must say it was one of the most moving things I ever saw," he said. "The ballet captured the fear and the resistance, and all the things that were important about the Holocaust."
This year's breakthrough work came from a group of students from Warren G. Harding Middle School in Philadelphia, who created a podcast — a radio program designed for distribution over the Internet — which won the Special Award for Audio Documentary. Eighth-graders Sarina McDuffy, Adriel Carrasco, Edward Foley, Bria Waters-James and Lee Martin delved into the audio archives of Holocaust survivors and put together a documentary, for which they provided the narration. As the 15-minute piece played at the awards ceremony, a single spotlight lit the stage, revealing an old radio and microphone.
The knowledge of the Shoah that students gain is "important to understand and process," said Pelta. And once they learn about that, students begin talking about places like Darfur, she said, and other areas in distress.
The key, explained Pelta, is to give students a forum to express themselves.
"The kids really respond to it; they really get it. They often do want to make a difference, they just don't know how."