Special to the Ledger
At a special ceremony to be held Monday, June 4, students at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford (SSDS) will unveil “Our Legacy Lives On,” a Holocaust memorial created by the school’s seventh-graders, in collaboration with Facing History and Ourselves. Founded in 1976, Facing History and Ourselves is a national non-profit organization that develops educational material on prejudices and injustice in American and European society, with a focus on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.
The memorial is the capstone of a year-long Project Focused Learning Initiative (PFLI) grant that encourages students to learn and engage in personal and cultural history through art.
According to SSDS Artist-in-Residence and Visual Arts Educator Rhiannon Van Bindsbergen, who facilitated the project along with University of Harford Professor Avinoam Patt, the students used sculpture as the medium to express their reflective journey. Their memorial specifically addresses the generations that survived and thrived after the Holocaust.
The students were challenged to create not only a physical space and structure for their monument, explains Bindsbergen, but also an open dialogue about their artistic intent and its impact.
“This project is layered. It is an ongoing and evolving exploration from three perspectives: the point of view of the Jewish people, the vision of the creators of the monument and the meaning for the viewers. The intention was to have both a meaningful process for the students to engage with their history and a meaningful experience for the community,” says Bindsbergen.
In developing the vision for “Our Legacy Lives On,” throughout the school year students reached out to members of the Jewish community for personal accounts of their Holocaust experiences. They used the stories they were told as a resource to provide the context for their exploration. Seventh graders Alyssa Temkin and Matthew Medvedovski each have grandfathers who are Holocaust survivors; conversations between the class and the two grandfathers inspired the vision for the sculpture.
As they set out to create the memorial, says Bindsbergen, the students agreed that their goal would be to infuse the sculpture with personal meaning, while making it a beacon of hope for the community.
Cementing their vision, Alyssa and Matthew cast their hands clasped with those of their grandfather’s. Coupled with castings of the hands of all students in the class from which plants will grow, the memorial symbolizes the growth and beauty that has thrived despite the horrors of the Holocaust, as well as the students’ personal journeys as Jews today.
The message: even through devastation, rebirth and growth are possible.
“The importance of this work had been highlighted in light of recent legislation, making Holocaust education mandatory in the State of Connecticut,” says SSDS Head of School Andrea Kaspar. “Furthermore, it exemplifies the best outcomes from student led learning and the power of student voices to making learning meaningful, engaging and communal.”
The public is invited to attend the unveiling of “Our Legacy Lives On” at a ceremony to be held Monday, June 4, 7 p.m. at Solomon Schechter Day School, 26 Buena Vista Road, West Hartford. For more information: (860) 561-0700, ssds-hartford.org.
CAP: SSDS seventh graders work on their Holocaust project, “Our Legacies Ourselves,” with their art teacher Rhiannon Van Bindsbergen.