More than 1,200 students, teachers and community members from across New Jersey attended the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education’s (Chhange) 33rd annual Colloquium, held in the Collins Arena on May 13.
The annual event – designed to promote awareness, education and engagement for key issues – centered this year on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Holocaust survivors.
Nearly 50 area Holocaust survivors attended the program and were presented with Life Achievement Awards and Certificates of Appreciation from Chhange and the college. Dr. Paul B. Winkler, Executive Director of the NJ Commission on Holocaust Education, presented the survivors with a letter from the State of New Jersey, declaring May 13, 2015 as Survivor Recognition Day.
In a moving ceremony, more than 100 8th grade students from Cedar Drive Middle School in Colts Neck escorted the survivors into the arena, where they joined their friends and families.
The program also featured a keynote address by world-renowned scholar and Holocaust expert Michael Berenbaum, PhD. Berenbaum oversaw the creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC and has served as president and CEO of the Survivors of Shoah Visual History Foundation, which has gathered testimony from 52,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide.
The author and editor of 20 books, Berenbaum also served as chief historical consultant for a number of Emmy- and Academy Award-winning films.
He spoke to the audience about “Survivors Empowering Voices for Tomorrow,” stressing the importance of students being able to see and hear Holocaust survivors firsthand. The last generation of survivors, Berenbaum said, has a responsibility to carry the their memories and voices forward to teach future generations.
Other speakers included Dale Daniels, executive director of Chhange; Congresswoman Mary Pat Angelini; Marie Lucier-Woodruff, dean of Outreach, Business & Community Development; Howard Dorman, Chhange board president; and Jane Denny, Chhange director of education. Each focused on the importance of what the survivors are able to teach and the inspirational power of their message to current and future generations.
Following the ceremony, local students spread out across the Lincroft campus to join one of 25 themed workshops. Many workshops were lead by Holocaust survivors, as well as survivors from Rwanda, Cambodia and Sudan. Other workshops centered on hate crimes, ethical consumerism, LGBTQ teen issues and other human rights topics.
The program was sponsored by Robert and Joan Rechnitz, with additional support from the New Jersey Education Association, the Carl and Mary Gross Foundation, NJ Natural Gas and Two River Community Bank.
To learn more about Chhange or find out about upcoming programs, visit their webpage or call 732-224-1889.
PHOTO CAPTION: Michael Berenbaum, Dale Daniels and Paul Winkler stand at the 33rd annual Chhange Colloquium in Lincroft on May 13.
Photos and article by the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education.