On Friday Morning, instead of the regular Holocaust Assembly on Yom HaShoah, Forest Hill Collegiate Insitute changed it up and had a 15-minute assembly on the announcements during the second period. Jewish Culture Club members discussed the tragedy that was the Holocaust and honoured the approximately six million Jews and five million others who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the operations by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.
The assembly was broadcast across all classrooms in the school and discussed the importance of hearing about the Holocaust, the horrendous nature of genocides and listened to beautiful prayers for peace. Students were encouraged to turn off their phones and direct all their attention to the assembly. The announcement also talked about the recent anti-Semitic graffiti that was found on a student poster at Northern Secondary School.
Although many teachers and students believed that the assembly was a positive change, others had very different opinions. Grade 11 Student, Bailee Cohen, says that her “entire class had a debate” and felt like the assembly was “lazy” and “disrespectful”. Cohen also noted that the school has long assemblies in the auditorium for Prom but lack assemblies for “important days”, such as Pink Day. Her English class wrote a letter to the administration with her teacher that expressed their feelings for the assembly, according to Cohen.
[su_members message=”If you would like to read the rest of this article, please %login%. It only takes a minute and is 100% secure.” color=”#4bb8fc” login_text=”create an account” login_url=”https://fhcigoldenfalcon.com/register” class=””]
Other students shared similar opinions with Cohen. Noa Wolfe, a student in Bailee’s English class, says “the announcement played at my school this morning was a cop-out for the Holocaust assembly that Forest Hill has put on for years.”
I believe the millions of people who died during this time deserve more than a 10-minute speech over the intercom.
Wolfe says that she looks forward to the assembly every year. “It is an opportunity for me to learn more about this issue in an engaging and creative way. However, this year the assembly was cancelled and a quick announcement was put in its place.” She thinks that the regular assembly should not have been cancelled, “especially because of the large Jewish community Forest Hill has.” She adds that “we as a school should have given the very few survivors left the respected that they deserve.”
Marlee Moskoff, a grade 11 student at Forest Hill Collegiate Insitute, says that “the announcements were not nearly as effective as an assembly would’ve been. Assemblies have visual and audio components which are more engaging for students.” She noted many flaws with the new assembly, such as the fact that students tend to tune out for announcements. “The message of the Holocaust is important enough to take students out of class to better communicate the message.”
This is an extremely important message to me because my family was targeted in the Holocaust and I want there to be as much awareness as possible.
After the assembly, classes were invited to come to the foyer to sign a poster for “upstanding,” which was discussed in detail during the announcement. Upstanding is defined as an “honest” and “respectable” member of the community.
A grade 12 student, who requested to stay anonymous, had this to say:
I will agree that being an upstander is important but I am unimpressed that more time was spent on discussing the addition of this word to the dictionary than was spent honouring and remembering the Holocaust.
Eight students, initially driven by grade 12 student Jalen Manett, wrote a formal email to the administration about the importance of having a “real” assembly. They write:
“…Yom HaShoah is a day that hits close to home for many students at our school, a school with an above average Jewish student population, as for many it is a day to remember personal connections to the Holocaust through family members who perished or were affected by this tragic event. Many of us were even lucky enough to have had the unforgettable opportunity to march through the death camps in Poland and hear first-hand recollections of the heart-breaking stories of those who survived this tragedy. That is why myself and countless other students, both Jewish and not, were particularly upset by the decision to condense this year’s remembrance assembly into an eight-minute announcement. During which time my classmates who do not understand the significance of the Holocaust went on their phones, completed their homework, and took nothing away from this presentation.
The main reason why myself and many others were so concerned by this is this gradual shortening of our initiatives to commemorate the Holocaust just goes to enforce the naysayers and Holocaust deniers who base their claims on a lack of information and knowledge, which we as a school are enforcing by neglecting to educate students properly on this important piece of history. Especially in light of the recent actions at Northern Secondary School I know the Jewish community at FHCI saw an increased importance in this year’s Yom HaShoah initiatives. I hope you will take our concerns into consideration as we only want to celebrate our history in a positive way with the rest of the Forest Hill community.”
The views reflected in the article do not necessarily illustrate the opinions associated with The Golden Falcon newspaper.