Vineland High School unveiled a new permanent exhibit in the VHS South media center on Wednesday dedicated to the Holocaust survivors who eventually found a home in Vineland. The Kuhnreich/Teichman Media Holocaust Research Center and Exhibit spans the entire length of a wall in the media center and then some, including several hand-painted ceiling tiles.
The idea was formed in Terry Kuhnreich’s Search for Conscience class earlier this year. The class examines historical and current events that demonstrate both man’s inhumanity to man, as well as the capacity for humans to exhibit strong moral and ethical values and behavior, with the major focus being the Holocaust. The class is often called a safe haven and an emotional journey for the students, who discuss their own pre-judgments about race, women, domestic violence and many other topics. When a student asked how many Holocaust survivors lived in Vineland, Kuhnreich’s quest for knowledge began.
Kuhnreich, a daught of Holocaust survivors, reached out to the Jewish Federation of Gloucester, Salem, and Cumberland Counties and eventually tallied 891 names, which are now listed on the “Wall of Remembrance” in the center of the exhibit. The “living document” will be updated as more names are identified.
The dedication ceremony began with remarks from Suzette DeMarchi, principal of VHS, who noted that the exhibit would be more than just a display, it would be a teaching tool for all students in the district. The hope is that the exhibit will be able to tie into not just Holocaust and Jewish history, but the history of Vineland, as well.
Following DeMarchi were a host of guest speakers, including Rabbi Yisroel Rapoport, district superintendent Dr. Mary Gruccio, VHS media specialist Natalie Reynolds, president of the Jewish Federation of Gloucester, Salem, and Cumberland Counties Jay Einstein, and two Search for Conscience students, Jennifer Bermudez and Tanner Bushman. In addition to the remarks, there were two music selections. Search for Conscience student Lilith Kengeter sang the traditional lullabye “Oifen Pripitchuk” while Cantor Marlena Taenzer sang “Who Am I.”
The ceremony closed with Kuhnreich recognizing the four Holocaust survivors in attendance – Phyllis Dunkelman, Genia Kuhnreich, Isadore Randel, and Elizabeth Roth.
“Look around you, you look at what you see in this audience,” Kuhnreich said. “They will not forget your stories. You will live on. You will live on in their memory and their children’s memory.”
In addition to the Wall of Remembrance, the exhibit features student art and artifacts connected with the Holocaust, as well as books about the Holocaust. The display resembles the Warsaw Ghetto and replicates one of the most well-known exhibits in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – victim’s shoes. Contrasting with the somber showcase is a reminder of hope, in the form of butterflies scattered throughout the exhibit. The butterfly has become a symbol for the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust.
Kuhnreich has plans to continue expanding the exhibit past just the wall. She and her students will begin work on an album featuring the biographies of each survivor listed. Eventually, she would like to expand her work to all of Cumberland County.
Click the following link for a gallery of photos from the event: http://bit.ly/2VaNC0R
VPS Broadcasting was also at the ceremony, and a news piece will be available soon on our YouTube channel, VLDSchoolsTV.