Nearly 50 Holocaust survivors were in attendance when Michael Berenbaum told more than 1,200 students, teachers, and community members gathered at Brookdale Community College that they had a responsibility to carry the survivors’ memories and voices forward to teach future generations.
Berenbaum, who served as project director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and president and CEO of the Survivors of Shoah Visual History Foundation, was the keynote speaker at the 33rd annual colloquium of the college’s Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education (Chhange).
He asserted that the audience members could be among the last generation to be able to hear survivors’ stories firsthand.
The Chhange colloquium, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Holocaust survivors from Auschwitz and other camps, was held May 13 at the college in Lincroft.
Dr. Paul B. Winkler, executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, presented the survivors with a letter from the State of New Jersey, declaring May 13, 2015, as Survivor Recognition Day. Over 100 eighth-grade students from Cedar Drive Middle School in Colts Neck escorted the survivors into the arena, where they joined their friends and families.
Other speakers included Chhange executive director Dale Daniels; Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Dist. 11); Marie Lucier-Woodruff, the college’s dean of business and community development; Chhange board president Howard Dorman; and Chhange director of education Jane Denny.
After the plenary session, students disbursed across the campus to join one of 25 workshops. Many were led by Holocaust survivors, as well as survivors of genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, and Sudan. In addition to the Holocaust, workshops focused on hate crimes, ethical consumerism, LGBTQ teen issues, and other human rights topics.
Philanthropists Robert and Joan Rechnitz were the official sponsors of this program. Additional sponsors included NJEA, The Carl and Mary Gross Foundation, NJ Natural Gas, and Two River Community Bank.