On April 12, Churchville-Chili students gathered in the C-C Performing Arts Center to hear the stories of 10 teenagers who found themselves in the middle of World War II and the Holocaust, and who survived. “Survivors,” a play by Wendy Kout, presented by the Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center, connects with young audiences by sharing the actual words of these survivors, who tell about families, school, friends and first loves. They explain how things in Germany changed slowly, with discriminatory legislation, new limits on protest and press freedoms, and growing distrust. Eventually, hatred was normalized. It became okay to take away people’s rights, humanity, and even their lives.
“There were 900 high school kids in the auditorium and you could have heard a pin drop,” said Fine Arts Director Jeffrey Smith. “It was powerful.”
The scene repeated itself with several hundred eighth-graders during a second performance. The JCC’s Director of TYKES (Theatre Young Kids Enjoy) Freyda Schneider, along with the actors, encouraged questions after each presentation. They addressed the choices many people made to be kind and courageous; to be resourceful and to fight for what is right. Students were encouraged to stay informed, to be aware that genocides can happen anywhere and are still happening throughout the world.
Local Holocaust survivors have visited Churchville-Chili classrooms often in the past, but they are aging. The JCC commissioned this original play to ensure that their stories and the truth of the Holocaust live forever. This year alone, the piece is being performed at more than 20 of the region’s school districts. For more information on the stories from Rochester’s Holocaust survivors: http://www.rochesterholocaustsurvivors.org/
(“Survivors” cast members included D. Scott Adams, Kate Armstrong, Jackson Mosher, Sara Penner, Alexa Scott-Flaherty and Skylar Shaw with Director Sandi Henchel and Stage Manager Jack Simel.)
Feature photo: The JCC’s Freyda Schneider introduced the production and led a question and answer session afterwards.
This page photo: When students actually experience the scene of families being sent to concentration camps, learning takes on a more personal meaning.