Last summer, high school student Jeremy Feigenbaum of Teaneck went on a life-changing trip when he joined the United Synagogue Youth Poland and Israel "From Darkness to Light" Pilgrimage. One of the sites he visited was the notorious Majdanek death camp in Poland. "But was this concentration camp, this camp of horrors, hidden from the public eye? No, unlike many other camps, Majdanek was not hidden in a remote area," he later wrote in an essay. "[The] death camp was right off a highway connecting Lublin, Zamosc, and Chelm. And, equally disturbing, Majdanek bordered a Polish town only one fence lay between extermination and everyday life."
Jeremy Feigenbaum greets Holocaust survivor Alice Masters during his visit to Washington.
That essay, entitled "Majdanek: When Humanity Looked Away," expressing his thoughts on the importance of understanding the Holocaust in order to prevent another one, was selected from among 4,100 entries as one of 10 finalists in the ‘007 Holocaust Remembrance Project essay contest sponsored by the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation. Jeremy won a six-day trip to Washington, D.C., where the finalists were honored for their achievement at a dinner, known as the "Transfer of Testimony." All the finalists were awarded college scholarships, and Jeremy’s was for $’,500. At the dinner were Marlina Librescu, wife of slain Virginia Tech professor and Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu, and Daoud Ibrahim Hari, a human rights activist and refugee from Darfur.
The trip also included a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where the students were addressed by author Ishmael Beah, author of "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solider." The finalists met with Holocaust survivors and high school teachers who teach about the Holocaust.
Jeremy, the son of Karen Misler and Barry Feigenbaum, graduated from the Bergen County Academies in Hackensack in June and plans to attend Brown University in the fall, where he will study political science in preparation for a career in law. During his senior year he interned in the Hackensack office of Rep. Steve Rothman. Rep. Rothman told Jeremy that "your essay serves as a reminder that the world must never cease its efforts to ensure that such atrocities are not repeated."
Jeremy’s essay focused on the tragedy of the world’s standing by while the Holocaust occurred and the ways that he and other young people can work to ensure that such an event never happens again. "’Never again’ does not mean that people will never again attempt ethnic exterminations and genocide, but that we will never again sit idly by and allow it to happen," he wrote. "We will not be the residents of the town bordering Majdanek, or the families who drove along the highway from Lublin to Chelm, men and women who saw smoke rise from the crematoriums and knew what it meant. . . . We have a responsibility and, in today’s world, no matter how difficult it may seem, we must uphold this commitment."
Among his suggestions: joining or starting a tolerance or multicultural club at school; supporting the resolution that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called for Israel’s destruction, be tried under the Geneva Convention for attempting to incite genocide; and publicizing the tragedy in Darfur.
This is the 13th year that the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation has sponsored the Holocaust Remembrance Project Essay Contest, created to encourage and promote the study of the Holocaust.