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Hope Blecher
Member, Hadassah Lower New York State Chapter

Yom HaShoah is About Hope

Artwork courtesy of Hadassah
Artwork courtesy of Hadassah.

As a teacher, it can be a struggle to wrestle with our personal and professional feelings and how to separate those when with our students. Sometimes, there is an inferred need to do this to keep one’s job. Other times, it is stated in a policy book. 

While there are bookshelves and sites filled with parenting books, and I admit to having read a few, there’s no parent policy book. For working parents, there is the professional persona and the personal persona. In my situation, those blended.

Sometimes, what I experienced at home became fodder for lessons with students of various ages. Other times, it was peer chit chat. It happened in reverse, too. Something I’d be researching to teach or something a student asked during class, would become a learning point and an at home chit chat. I’m refraining from calling it an at home lesson or discussion. 

Artwork courtesy of Hadassah.

To this day, I read a newspaper, one online and over the weekend it’s a print edition. To this day, if an article is one that strikes me as something to share with my students or family, I clip it and share it later. While the method of sharing has changed from the use of scissors and envelopes to screen sharing and emailing, that food for thought still happens. 

Why am I telling you this in a column about what I once heard referred to as the Week of Yoms? Well, because reading the newspaper, chatting and pondering the food for thought is what brought me to sharing this column with you. 

A few years ago, as the head teacher for humanities, and as a middle school teacher, I had a challenging group of students. In turn, I challenged them. With over 26 students, I jotted notes and spoke with colleagues. For Yom HaShoah Day of Remembrance, we would write a book. Each student was randomly assigned a letter; knowing the class and their interests, I had a few who I counted on to use their arts talents for the front and back covers.

For each letter, the students had to undertake a bit of research. I didn’t want them to regurgitate what they already knew about the Holocaust. I reached out to parents for help proofreading and creating the digital book. Well, low and behold, it exceeded our expectations. When each student shared their contribution, they owned it! I felt it and so did they.

That experience wraps into what I read in the New York Times on Sunday, April 17, 2022. It was the obituary of Marvin Chomsky. While I didn’t know who he was, the name Chomsky caught my eye; it brought me back to my days in college and Noam Chomsky. That’s for another time. Marvin Chomsky, 92, Director of Roots and Holocaust. So read it I did.

When Mr. Chomsky accepted the Emmy for “Holocaust,” he said he had mixed feelings about winning an honor for a series that “depicted events that never should have happened at all.”  But, he added, “They did happen, and I am proud to have been able to tell that story to those who didn’t know, like my sons David, Eric, and Peter, and possibly to remind some of those who forgot.

That excerpt from his acceptance speech intertwines with how I approach teaching and learning. I strive to make a difference in the lives of those I’m interacting with. You see, over a 37-year career, I’ve worked with a broad age group of students who’ve reflected a varied of home languages, home circumstances and learning abilities, in addition to talents, interests and personalities.

I strive to connect the content with their lives. I hope to plant the seed that will rest in their minds until something prompts it to germinate. It could be something they read, see, touch, taste, smell or hear. And that brings me to the connection between the arts and the U.S. Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The arts are a source for expression and reflection, for forgetting and remembering, for experiencing. I know this firsthand as both of my 20-something-year-old children work in arts related fields. The arts, from dancing to singing, from writing to painting, and from signing (as in this year’s award-winning film Coda) to lighting, offer us a pathway.

I have seen it on September 11th at the commemoration held outside of Lincoln Center, The Tribute Table of Silence. I have heard and watched it through Koolulam’s “Hai” by Avraham Toledano and Uri Kariv.

Let’s circle back and look around. Read the proclamation from President Joseph Biden, Jr. Choose what feels right for you. Perhaps it’s a moment of silence for those no longer with us because of the ultimate sacrifice in the creation and continuation of the State of Israel. Perhaps it’s lighting a candle, taking a walk, reading a poem such as The Silver Platter by Natan Alterman or Hare’ut, the Song of Friendship.   

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America is committed to Israel in so many ways. Through supporting medical establishments, through different advocacy pathways for infertility, women’s rights, family justice and trips to Israel. Through the Hadassah wellness program Every Move Counts and more, there is a step that you can embrace. With hope, we can achieve. Henrietta Szold proved that by helping immigrants both in Baltimore and in Palestine.

Throughout the years, there have been many more daily, yearly and lifelong members of Hadassah. Some are famous such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and others are famous in our own hearts and communities. Choose hope, choose to remember, choose to learn and share. Choose one call to action and make it yours for yourself, your students, your family. 

As a final note, uniting the theme of hope to my name and Hadassah, I’ll share this personal tidbit. My English name is Hope. What’s my Hebrew name? It is not Hadassah or Tikvah. It is Ayelet, from Elijah, the Prophet of Hope. Let’s join in singing Hatikvah. We keep the hope, the flame alive. Thank you. Shalom.

About the Author
Dr. Hope Blecher has been working in the field of education for 37 years. Currently, she serves as an English as a Second Language teacher for an adult education program in NJ. Recently, she became the founder of hope4education.com. Previously, Hope served in capacities from being the first Middle School Curriculum Coordinator and Humanities teacher for a yeshiva in Teaneck, NJ, to serving in public schools as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and the Supervisor of English Literacy, Social Studies and Media Services. Dr. Hope Blecher holds multiple standard NJDOE issued certifications that she has used by serving as an adjunct professor, a teacher of high school students with special needs, English Language Learners K-adult, and those in the elementary age level classrooms. Along with friends and colleagues, Hope co-authored educational books and articles. She earned a BA in Sociology, an MA in Early Childhood Education, and an Ed.D. in Teacher Leadership. She has been a member of Hadassah for over a decade, first in the Southern NJ chapter and currently in the Lower New York State chapter.
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