BEACHWOOD, Ohio — With International Holocaust Day set for Friday, the Kol Israel Foundation held a special event to educate students about the horrors of the atrocities committed by the Nazis before and during World War II.
The event, which took place in Beachwood, honored the importance of Holocaust education with the foundation's Face to Face® program. Middle and high school students from across Northeast Ohio participated in Thursday's event, which featured stories from 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, Erika Gold.
"For a while, we were okay," Gold recalled to her audience. "But then in 1944, it looked like the war was almost over. The Hungarians were petrified that the Russians were going to occupy them because they were Communists. They wanted to make peace with the Allies. Hitler found out and they immediately took over Hungary, they just walked in."
The Face to Face® education program is designed to counter what the foundation calls "the influence of historical distortion and hatred." Students learn about the personal responsibility to fight against antisemitic hate.
"We do read these books and it seems like it's from a long time ago or 100 years ago now, but it's not. It's something that's still happening today and that's why it's so important that we bring them (students) here to have this experience so they can realize that there is hatred and cruelty in this world," says Chagrin Falls Middle School teacher Marissa Ausperk. "This is our generation that we're raising to know that it's not okay."
More than 58,000 students have participated in the foundation's program this year. That's a total of 135 schools in 11 Northeast Ohio counties.
Thursday's program comes amid a meteoric rise in antisemitism in the United States. According to a 2022 Anti-Defamation League study, the number of Americans harboring extensive antisemitic prejudice has doubled since 2019.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day was established by the United Nations in 2005 to memorialize victims of Nazi atrocities, promote Holocaust education, and work toward preventing future genocides. January 27 was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.