Alsop pupils affected by Auschwitz visit

YOM Hashoah was commemorated on Monday on the King David Campus.

Dignitaries present included deputy Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, the Lord Lieutenant, Dame Lorna Muirhead, Councillor Nick Small, assistant Mayor of Liverpool, and the Junior and Young Lord Mayors of Liverpool Scott Leath and Eva Carroll.

The AJEX standard was brought into the Atrium prior to lighting six memorial candles in honour of the six million Jewish lives lost.

The first candle was lit by King David High School captain Asher Lesin-Davis in memory of all the children who perished in the Shoah.

Naomi Brown, who attended with her mother Kay Fyne, a Kindertransportee, lit the second candle on behalf of second generation survivors.

The third candle was lit by Avril Lewis, Merseyside Jewish Representative Council president, in memory of those who perished with nobody to remember them.

Merseyside AJEX chairman Abe Drayer lit the fourth candle in memory of all ex-servicemen and women,while the fifth candle was lit by Theo Roberts, on behalf of his great-grandmother, Holocaust survivor Ruth Edwards.

The final candle was lit on behalf of the city of Liverpool by Cllr Kennedy, who told the audience that he was proud to stand with the Jewish community.

He said that as a child, he had found newspapers in his grandmother's house depicting the harrowing images of the liberation of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and Poland.

The photographs remain as a lasting memory for him.

Rabbi Dan Lieberman referred to the Guardian of the Memory and how each and every one of us should light a candle for one Jewish soul who perished in the Shoah.

He read the prayer for Yom Hashoah, composed by former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and recited the Memorial Prayer.

Four non-Jewish Year 12 students from Alsop High School, Eve McArdle, Gemma Cook, Harry Ellis and Mark Reynolds, together with their assistant headteacher October Wright visited Auschwitz last year as part of the Holocaust Education Trust's Lessons from Auschwitz.

They delivered a powerful presentation about their thoughts and reflections of that trip.

Mrs Wright spoke about being one of only two Jews among a group of 250.

"This enabled me to experience Auschwitz on so many levels: as a Jew, as a woman, as a mother," she said. "The visit will stay with all of us for the rest of our lives and, it left me feeling very different than how I felt before the visit about many things, including my own cultural and spiritual identity."

The pupils told how the visit to Auschwitz affected them.

Eve said: "I was shocked by the size - it serves as a haunting reminder of the extent of the hatred which fuelled the camp.

"I remember particularly being staggered by a sign hanging on the wall of the office where the Final Solution was meticulously planned out.

"It was a quote from the papers, written and signed by the Nazis, 'Jews are a race which must be totally exterminated'. I do know that the overwhelming thought I left with that day is that this must never, ever happen again."

Gemma spoke about meeting an inspirational rabbi at the death camp.

"The rabbi reminded us of the importance of not taking seemingly everyday things for granted - family for example," she said.

"This was particularly poignant considering we had heard harrowing tales of babies being ripped from mothers' arms and sons being forcibly separated from their parents."

Harry said that what resonated with him "were the displays at the museum which served to reify the horrors of what happened; this included shoes, briefcases and even human hair extracted from victims of the Holocaust." He added: "Regardless of religion or faith, it is important to remember that hate has no place in today's society and should and must always be challenged."

Mark compared his trip to the concept of Tikkun Olam stating that "the aim of all our religions is to do good in the world and to create positive change for the future. That is the basic human lesson that the Holocaust teaches us".

Mrs Wright concluded the presentation by speaking about hope.

"The hope one desperately searches for after leaving such a hopeless place like Auschwitz is a strange one," she said.

"While it took most of us a long time to find it, hope was with us all along in the sense of human unity, the unity of experience, the unity which comes from the compassion and empathy one must feel for the victim and the unity one feels toward their common man to ensure this never happens.

"I saw hope in the eyes of these wonderful young people who I shared the experience with, by the commitment to always challenge hatred of any description."

Lauren Clyne told the story of her grandmother, Ruth Edwards, who arrived in the UK on February 16, 1939, at the age of 12, to stay with relatives she had never met.

Ruth later discovered that her parents had been shot by the Nazis.

"My grandmother recognises that she was one of the lucky ones; she survived and used this appreciation to make the most of her life," Lauren said. "She was the ultimate working mother, doing what she could to ensure the best life for her own children.

"She is a truly inspirational woman and, in the same way as many others of her era, carved out a new beginning resulting in an ever-growing family."

Rabbi Martin van den Bergh spoke about his great aunt who refused to leave Holland because she would not leave a disabled child behind. They both perished.

Following the ceremony, Alsop staff and students presented the Liverpool Jewish community with a mosaic memorial to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.

The large tiled mosaic was produced by young people who participated in the Anne Frank Trust exhibition at the school.

"It was a privilege for Alsop to attend this special event," said teacher Peter Bull, co-ordinator of Faith 2017.

"We are proud of the links forged between Alsop and King David High School and are humbled that Alsop students were able to stand alongside the Liverpool Jewish community together, as one, to honour the memory of those who perished."

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