Students ‘Bare Witness’ as culmination of Shoah studies, telling survivors’ stories
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Students ‘Bare Witness’ as culmination of Shoah studies, telling survivors’ stories

Students and Holocaust survivors during presentation of “Bare Witness 2022”
Students and Holocaust survivors during presentation of “Bare Witness 2022”

The premiere of “Bare Witness 2022” was held June 2 at Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck. The multimedia production — part film and part live theater — was the culmination of the year-long interdisciplinary Bare Witness Project of the 12th-grade Holocaust Studies class taught by Cary Reichardt and Rebecca Lopkin. Through the project, which bridges the gap between a typical history class and a dramatic production, the students learned about the Holocaust, racism, genocide, and World War II, and met with four Holocaust survivors, who recounted their experiences and answered questions from the class members.

The educators feel that interacting with survivors has the greatest impact on students: they “own” their learning, it’s personal, and it becomes a part of who they are. The project includes acting and playwriting workshops, with the students processing their feelings and sharing their thoughts and insights while working collaboratively. They created original scripted scenes incorporating the survivors’ stories. After the script was completed, students were cast in roles and rehearsed the production, followed by two weeks of filming. The
entire film portion was shot in Bergen County and around the TABC campus, where brick walls were the backdrop for ghettos, train tracks were the setting for arrival at Auschwitz, and a park was the setting for the prisoners’ work detail.

One parent of a cast member said that viewing “Bare Witness 2022” “was extremely moving and emotional for us. The gift that you’ve given our family is priceless. Telling the Holocaust stories are important, but acting in some of those stories is so much more powerful….

“This was an experience that will last a lifetime, and the students will be able to share these stories with their children and grandchildren. Thank you for giving them this great opportunity.”

TABC’s program, said the educators, is essential now as today’s high school students are the final generation to have the opportunity to meet and interact with Holocaust survivors; this is the “bare” point, when few eyewitnesses are left to share their experiences with younger generations. TABC feels confident that its students have become faithful “witnesses” in ensuring the world will never forget.

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