The Hate Ends Now-Cattle Car Experience (HEN) returned to Savannah for the past two weeks with thousands of impressions made on/in our community.
The program was introduced to Savannah by Rabbi Eli Lob who had seen it in Charleston. It has traversed North American as a partnership between NCSY and Shadowlight (the creator of the immersive travelling experience) and has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with a message of what happens when you stand silent in the face of evil. At a time of rising anti-Semitism and the normalization of hate, this exhibit plays an important role in educating future generations.
When the Federation originally brought the Hate Ends Now exhibit to Savannah we targeted many of the “influentials” in our community: Politicians, Business owners, Educators, Police and Fire and others. At the same time, we had the exhibit open to the entire community. Hundreds came through the exhibit over five days when it was at the JEA.
With the return of Hate Ends Now (HEN), we focused on high school age students to reinforce the Holocaust studies which are a part of the State mandated curriculum. To accommodate different groups throughout Savannah HEN was located in four different locations: Benedictine School, Skidaway Community Church, JEA, and Savannah Country Day School (SCDS) and hosted students from 14 Savanah High Schools, Benedictine, St Vincent’s, Classical Academy, and SCDS. Interspersed with the student experiences were opportunities for community members to tour the cattle car and artifacts.
During the two weeks, Michelle Allan (who diligently took care of every detail) was delighted to receive a call from Pinewood Christian Academy in Bellville, GA. The 6th grade Social Studies teacher, Missi Elrod saw the coverage of HEN on WTOC and requested that her entire class be afforded the opportunity to experience Hate Ends Now. And so, 46 students (and teacher) made the 130+ mile trip to Savannah on Monday. After we posted a photo of the class on Facebook, she wrote,
“Thank YOU for this amazing opportunity. We appreciate the JEA and Shadowlight for providing this for students around the country. Textbook learning can only go so far, but seeing the exhibit in person was such a moving experience.”
Bringing programs like this to Savannah was made possible thanks to the Dena Yaschik Bodziner Memorial Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of Savannah and generous support from Bunny & Jim Montag and The Kole Family.
One of the most special parts of “the return” of Hate Ends Now was the addition of 94-year-old survivor Heddy Bohm. She spoke to assemblies at Country Day and Savannah Arts and met with many of the school groups after they toured the cattle car exhibit. Quietly and elegantly, she shared her story having been in Auschwitz and then forced into slave labor in Germany before being liberated by the Allied Forces in the summer of 1945. She finished with each group with a message for the students to take things very seriously, to have self-confidence, to appreciate the life they have been given, and to believe that each of them can make a difference.
Once Heddy finished speaking to the student groups they were asked to ink their fingers, make their mark on a canvas and answer a question, “How will you make your mark?”
It was one thing to hear her story, to view the artifacts; Heddy charged the students to make a vow for the future. She empowered them to make a statement.
I think she accomplished her goal.
Unfortunately, there is much work to be done.