The Holocaust dealt its horrific blow decades before students at Kyrene Middle School were even born, but three of them have been honored for the compelling essays they wrote as part of the writing competition sponsored by the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.
Debra Rosenblum, their English language arts teacher at KMS, is more than just a teacher—she’s a best-selling author herself who takes the art of the written word quite seriously. Kyrene’s website carries a description of the teacher who admits she’s “goofy and good-natured with the kids, but serious about writing and reading.”
Her hard work and dedication shows. Under her tutelage, KMS has winners in the writing competition for the second year in a row. Rachel Sindlinger tied for 1st place with her essay, Choices. Anya Storch tied for 3rd place with her essay entitled, My Family’s Legacy. A third student, Casey Strauss, and her essay, Just a Simple Word, finaled in the Top 15.
“These students spent hours of class time and at home, writing, conferencing with their peers and with me in their quest to present their thoughts and opinions on the given prompts,” Rosenblum said. “Their dedication to the topics and to their writing skills is evident in their poignant pieces.”
Rachel’s essay pointed to the words of Elie Wiesel, the famous survivor of Auschwitz who went on to become a Nobel laureate. “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness,” Wiesel once said.
“This simple yet touching statement tells us that we can’t sit in silence and allow the world’s problems to pass over our heads. It is our duty as humans to stand up for what we believe. Silence can be more destructive than noise, especially in a situation like this,” Rachel penned in her essay.
Anya wrote that she herself wasn’t Jewish but that her relatives lived in Europe during the Holocaust. Her great-grandparents, who lived in an apartment in Amsterdam, did not stand idle in the face of evil, but “risked their lives and those of their whole family, and hid a Jewish family” during the terror.
“It makes me realize how important life is, how I can just have that ability to help make someone’s life better. Being so lucky to live in this country gives us endless possibilities on how we can positively impact what’s around us, and help others do the same,” Anya wrote.
Casey was similarly moved to make a difference in the world: “I know I can’t end all the hate by myself, and this essay might not do very much, but as long as I can change just one person’s life, help just one person follow their dreams, I can make my ‘just’ a positive one and change someone’s world for the better,” Casey wrote.
“As their teacher, I couldn’t be prouder,” Rosenblum said of her students.
Choices by Rachel Sindlinger: