Elie Wiesel student competitions continue to engage young minds

May 20, 2014

What’s Happening

Student Holocaust Commission art exhibit opening reception
Tuesday, May 20, 5–7 pm, in the Atrium, ODU Virginia Beach

More than 1,400 students entered the 2014 Elie Wiesel Writing and Visual Arts Competitions presented by the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

These students did more than just write, or sculpt, or film; they thought, they researched, and they learned.

For each level of the competitions — junior (grades 6-8) and senior (grades 9-12)—the students were given a statement to consider and questions to answer as a starting point for their entries. These thought-provoking ideas change each year, and are designed to promote Holocaust education, stimulate higher-level thinking, and demonstrate creative consideration of the past, the present, and the future.

Sarah Bragg, a Virginia Beach Middle School eighth grader, entered the multimedia category of the 2014 Visual Arts Competition.

A dancer, Sarah’s creation was a response to this year’s s directive to look at the role the White Rose, Righteous Gentiles, and other heroes of humanity played in the Holocaust, and to express her feelings and ideas about such heroes.

“I already had a song that meant a lot to me that I thought would work really well for this,” says Sarah, who attended the Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance event held on April 27 at Ohef Sholom Temple. “I did different movements that I had a friend video, and then put them together with the words and the music of the song—it was hard but I enjoyed it and learned a lot.”

In the description of her piece, Sarah says her entry represents a girl who is lonely and has no one to look up to. The dance is an interpretation of the girl’s struggle and her search for a hero.

Sarah’s mother, Laura, attended Yom Hashoah with her daughter and said they were both were moved by the event, the other student artwork on display that night, and the benefits of entering the competition.

“Hearing the speaker tonight was so different than reading a book, because he actually went through the Holocaust himself, and we got a lot out of being here” says Laura Bragg. “I know that Sarah took this competition very seriously and I think she did a great job—and all of these other artists did, too. This is very inspirational.”

Sarah, who was awarded a third place in the junior multimedia division, and all of the other winners in the Elie Wiesel competitions, were presented with a certificate of achievement, a cash award, and a hand-cast glass Star of David paperweight created by local artist Matthew Fine.

“Despite the multiple school closings this year due to snowfall, both the 17th annual Elie Wiesel Writing Competition, made possible through the generosity of the Simon Family Foundation, and the 12th Annual Elie Wiesel Visual Arts Competition, sponsored by TowneBank, had a very successful year,” says Deb Segaloff, Holocaust Commission member, who spoke at Yom Hashoah.

The poems, essays, two- and three-dimensional artwork and multimedia entries came from 34 public and private schools in Hampton Roads, Illinois, Minnesota, and, for the first time, international entries came from a school in Newfoundland, notes Segaloff.

“These students’ work represents voices of hope for the future, the voices to speak out against evil and hatred, so that we may all have a better tomorrow,” Segaloff says. “Whatever their particular opinion or point of view, these entries showed us that there were more than 1,400 young people thinking seriously about the lessons of the Holocaust.

“We were deeply moved that so many of them indicated that studying the Holocaust made them want to be better people. As a Commission, this is what we hope for.”

An exhibit of the finest work from the Visual Arts Competition will displayed in the Atrium at Old Dominion University Virginia Beach through June 7. The opening reception on Tuesday, May 20 is free and open to the public

All winning entries in the Holocaust Commission’s 2014 Elie Wiesel Writing and Visual Arts Competitions for Students can be found online at www.HolocaustCommission.org.

by Laine Mednick Rutherford

Letter to the Editor