Artful Witness for the Future

First place: “Humanity” by Kristen Landsman, grade 12, McSherrytown, Pa.,
from the survivor testimony of Natan Gipsman.

Can it possibly be that many Americans have only the vaguest understanding of the Holocaust? One national survey made headlines this spring suggesting as much.

If only all those surveyed could do as hundreds of middle school and high school youths do when the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education hosts its annual Art & Writing Contest at Chapman University. Each year the contest invites students in sixth through 12th grade to watch videotaped testimonies of Holocaust survivors and create poetry, prose, artwork or films in response to survivors’ testimonies about their experiences. The most recent contest engaged more than 5,000 students from all over the world.

As is tradition, the experience culminated with a spring awards ceremony in Memorial Hall at which students read and shared work, then poured out onto the Bert C. Williams Mall to enjoy a luncheon where they personally met some of the same survivors whose stories and memories they had studied.

This fall will mark the launch of the Rodgers Center’s 20th anniversary contest. As always, awards for first, second and third place will be given in each category.

But like a generation of participants before them, the students will all come away as champions for memory, forever changed for having entered a crucial intersection – a place where voices of the past stir witnesses to the future.

Display image at top/Second place: “The Little Tin Cup” by Sage Taber, grade 12, Mission Viejo, Calif., from the survivor testimony of Eva Safferman.

This story appeared in the spring 2018 issue of Chapman Magazine.

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