By Reema Sanghvi, Student Facilitator
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York
What is it like being the student facilitator of the I*EARN Holocaust/Genocide Project? When people first find out that I am one of the two student facilitators of the Holocaust/Genocide Project (HGP), this is their first question. I feel this happens because, unlike other I*EARN projects, the HGP presents information about something that is a part of world history in hopes of preventing this history from happening again.
I am also pretty sure that another reason people ask me this is because I am not Jewish. Because I was not personally affected by the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime, it is therefore assumed that I would not be a good choice to help lead such a project. This has been the comment of not just one, but a few people, and this reveals biased feelings, and stereotypes.
It does not take one who has been affected by the Holocaust to feel the pain of the survivors, nor does one need to be Jewish to be thrilled by the opening of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. That would be like saying that the only people who should feel anything about the present situation in Bosnia are those who are Muslim. This project takes someone who feels the compassion which is part of all people and someone who is angered by the deaths of millions whose lives were blown out like candles by a lunatic and his followers.
Being a student facilitator of the HGP gives me a chance to act and educate those who feel that simply because someone is not like them, that person might be someone who is inferior. To act through my words and deeds in a non-violent way, to spread a message of tolerance and mutual respect, this is important. In our world, it is the responsibility of those who possess profound humanitarian qualities to work towards increasing awareness in those who do not. I do this, here at Cold Spring Harbor High School, by writing to people from all over the world and discussing, with my e-mail friends, how to bring about mutual respect and peace between people.
While working on this project, I have learned many things, things that I will with take me into the future. My education of the Holocaust grew from material I had read in textbooks, to actually speaking with and interviewing survivors and learning their stories first hand. Each story of each survivor tells a story of a different experience, one that if we do not record now, will be forever lost to the world. We need to educate our children about past events and all cultures. Children who are educated to respect other cultures, races, and religions grow into tolerant adults who raise tolerant children.
So now, as another year of the Holocaust/Genocide Project comes to a close, I feel that we have come closer to our goal of taking action to efface bias from the globe, and I hope the HGP continues until prejudice and hatred between people has been destroyed. For only until we learn to respect each other, can we ever fully respect ourselves.
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Access the HGP's An End to Intolerance Web page.
Access the Holocaust/Genocide Project's Home Page.