From the 2nd Annual South Orange/Maplewood Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service committee:
The Sister Rose Thering Award will be presented to Columbia High School Language Arts teachers Janet Bustrin and Suzanne Ryan for developing the Holocaust education unit at the 42nd Annual Remember & Tell Service on May 5.
The 42nd Annual South Orange/Maplewood Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service will take place on Sunday, May 5, at Our Lady Of Sorrows Church, 217 Prospect Avenue in South Orange. The event at the church begins at 3:00pm. It is preceded by a March of Remembrance at 2:00 pm, which will assemble at Spiotta Park, corner of South Orange Avenue and Village Plaza in South Orange.
The SOMA annual interfaith observance began in 1977, the first of its kind in New Jersey, dedicated to the memory of the millions of victims of the unprecedented murders which took place during the darkest period of twentieth century history, the Holocaust. Every year, the service gives a platform to individuals who were witnesses and survivors. These individuals share their stories and messages of personal experiences with the community. Most of the surviving witnesses to the Holocaust were children during the Second World War. Their experience reflects the most dire consequences of prejudice and hate along with the power of individuals to step up and save lives.
This year’s Service features a keynote address by Stefanie Seltzer, Founder of The World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors. Seltzer was just 1 in 1939 when Poland was invaded, and she and her extended family were forced into a ghetto. When Seltzer was 3, her mother arranged for her to go into hiding. She lived in seven different hiding places – often taking on a false identity. By the time they were liberated, only her mother and two other family members from the ghetto survived. Seltzer lived in a displaced persons camp before coming to the United States in 1952.
The Sister Rose Thering Holocaust Education Award will be bestowed on Janet Bustrin and Suzanne Ryan, both Columbia High School Language Arts teachers who made great strides in developing the Holocaust Education unit at the school. The Award was established in memory of the late Seton Hall University professor, Rose Thering. Sister Rose dedicated her life to fighting prejudice through awareness, education, and cooperation. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on anti-Semitic text in Catholic school textbooks. This work was taken to Vatican II and profoundly influenced the drafting of Nostra Aetate.
Janet Bustrin was born and raised in Arizona – where there was a dearth of racial, religious, and cultural diversity. Several events in her life had a profound impact on her and her perspective of the world. At 17, while touring with a youth singing group, performing sacred and secular music in Western and Eastern Europe, she visited the Majdanek and Auschwitz/Birkenau Concentration Camps. The impact was swift and devastating. The inscription of the stone memorial in Polish at Majdanek, “Let our fate be a warning to you,” was burned into her brain that day. She holds a Ph.D. in Education Administration and teaches Language Arts at CHS. Her dissertation topic was, “DOES DIVERSITY MATTER IN THE SECONDARY SCHOOL CLASSROOM?” Her answer? Yes! It does. She has also earned her National Board Certified Teacher designation, allowing her to take a deeper dive into how best to serve our students. Today, the focus in her classroom is discrimination and prejudice in all its forms – race, culture, religion, class, tribal, and gender.
Suzanne Ryan has been teaching in the South Orange Maplewood School District for the last 26 years and at CHS for the past 10 years. She is dually certified as an English and Special Education teacher. She holds a BA in English from Dominican College in Blauvelt, an MA in Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an MA in English from Seton Hall University (where she knew Sister Rose!). She is currently a Doctoral student (ABD) at Seton Hall University in the Educational Leadership and Management Program.
Suzanne has always been drawn to social justice issues. When teaching third and fifth grade at Jefferson and Marshall School, she realized that the students needed to be exposed to studying the Holocaust. Ryan introduced the unit by teaching about the life of Anne Frank. Next she had her students read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry as the historical fiction novel, and Four Perfect Pebbles, a memoir by Marion Blumenthal Lazan. She invited Marion to come and speak to her fifth grade students at Jefferson and the presentation “changed students’ lives.” When she moved to Columbia High School, Ryan wanted to continue teaching about the Holocaust, so she designed a Holocaust Studies unit.
Collaborating with Dr. Janet Bustrin, both decided to commit to teaching about the Holocaust. They prepare students for the Remembrance Journeys Trip with Mr. Michael Rubell which is sponsored by the SOMA Holocaust Remembrance Committee. Some of the titles they use to teach this unit are Night by Elie Wiesel, Maus by Art Seligman, Hannah’s Suitcase by Karen Levine, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, This Way to the Gas Chamber, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski, and Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott. They also use many videos to supplement the unit so that students have a strong foundational knowledge of events leading up to, and causing Hitler’s rise to power. “It is a rich unit with much reflection,“ says Ryan. “I know that this unit has had a huge impact on my students; they have shared that with me. They are deeply moved by the first-hand accounts we watch, and the power of the words they read. The DC trip changes lives. Meeting and spending the day with Holocaust survivors is powerful beyond words. The students know that they are perhaps the last generation to have the great privilege of meeting and interacting with actual survivors. That is overwhelmingly life changing for them.”
The Annual Interfaith Holocaust Memorial service, was established in 1977 by Max Randall (z”l) of Maplewood, Rabbi Jehiel Orenstein (z”l) of Congregation Beth El in South Orange, and Sister Rose Thering from Seton Hall University.
Voices in Harmony, an interfaith choral ensemble in Essex County directed by Cantors Erica Lippitz of Oheb Shalom and Perry Fine, of Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, will perform once again as part of this program. A reception will follow the service.
For 42 years the two towns of South Orange and Maplewood have come together to remember the Holocaust and to vow to use the power within us to be vigilant and to protest continuing discrimination and genocide. In this year of 2018 – all caring people are urged to STAND UP and be part of this important event!