‘I hope they extend the conversation’: Archer leaders discuss International Holocaust Remembrance Day


Photo credit: Rose Sarner

History teacher Elana Goldbaum and Dean of Student Life, Equity and Inclusion Samantha Hazell-O’Brien present on International Holocaust Remembrance Day through a pre-recorded video. The video highlighted the background and history of the Holocaust, as well as what survivors are doing in the world today.

By Rose Sarner, Culture Editor

International Holocaust Remembrance Day serves as the one day to remember the approximately 6 million people who died during the span of four years in the Holocaust. Thursday, Jan. 27, was International Holocaust Remembrance Day which marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, one the largest concentration camps in Germany.  

Monday, Feb. 8, students watched a 20-minute video where history teacher Elana Goldbaum and Dean of Student Life, Equity and Inclusion Samantha Hazell-O’Brien presented on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. They focused on the background of the Holocaust and what the day signifies for many Jewish people around the world. 

“The approach that we took was thinking about all different levels of understanding. We are a six through 12 school, so observing something like International Holocaust Remembrance Day is challenging because not everybody knows what the Holocaust was,” Goldbaum said. “There had to be an entry point for students who maybe heard about it but weren’t really sure what it was. We thought it was really important to hear from a survivor … It not only humanizes the person who’s speaking, but also, for a wide variety of age groups, there might be questions that really resonate with them.”

Juniors Sophie Altemus and Eliza Tiles said they are frustrated because of the minimal amount of discussion Archer has had surrounding the Holocaust.

“I think [the presentation] was a positive start, and I thought that it covered a lot of information. However, I think that the placement a week after Holocaust Remembrance Day was a little interesting because I didn’t feel like [there was] much talk about Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Archer community when it happened,” Tiles said. “Instead, that was a conversation in my outside of Archer life and on social media. I also felt like it was just a little brief, like 20-minute coverage.”

The Holocaust is covered in the 10th grade history class curriculum, and Goldbaum said teachers have already reflected on how the community can talk about antisemitism in a broader sense.

“I’m going to speak from the ‘I’ perspective as a Jewish person who also has relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust. I teach a class here about genocide, and it is a senior seminar. There’s always going to be something that isn’t covered enough because history is vast and it is deep. It is multifaceted, and what we understand about history changes,” Goldbaum said. “Do we talk about indigenous history enough? Probably not. Do we talk about queer history enough? Probably not. There’s always going to be something that we can’t have a deeper exploration of.”

One major aspect of International Holocaust Remembrance Day is to promote Holocaust education throughout the world. Lily Dembo, leader of the Jewish Student Union, compiled a variety of educational resources to share with the community in honor of this day. One of the videos included in the presentation highlighted a Holocaust survivor as he shared his personal experiences with the audience. 

“I really enjoyed how they included an interview with an individual who lived through the Holocaust because it was more personal, which I think makes it better for people in the Archer community to understand,” Altemus said.

Every year, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is centered around a theme that is decided by the United Nations. Last year, it was centered on “Recovery and Reconstitution.” Members of the Jewish community examined the aftermath of the Holocaust, as well as ongoing efforts to address antisemitism, disinformation and hate speech. The topics discussed during the video focused on how to further educate and make students aware of the ongoing challenges the Jewish community faces around the world today.

This year, the theme was “Memory, Dignity and Justice.” People across the world explored how important it is to challenge distortion and preserve historic elements in order to make progress in the world. 

“April is Genocide Awareness Month and there’s Yom Hashoah later in the year, as well. We never should look at one day as the opportunity [to remember the Holocaust]. I would love to reassure students that if they want to take those opportunities outside of class, there are so many,” Goldbaum said. “This is Los Angeles. Los Angeles has the second largest population of Jewish people outside of New York and then Israel. There are museums, documentaries and so much beautiful literature. I think it’s more complicated than just like ‘We don’t cover X enough’ because that will never happen in school. We will never cover everything in-depth enough in class.”

Students like Tiles and Altemus said they hope Archer uses this presentation as a way to inspire future conversations surrounding the Holocaust.

“This presentation was definitely a good basic start to what I hope they continue doing when discussing the Holocaust at Archer,” Altemus said. “I wish they made it a little more interactive and extended the conversation. I hope that they do extend it and continue talking about it throughout the year.”