Editor’s note: Cimino is the Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity High School student newspaper. This story is part of a series highlighting local student journalism.
“I should say that I hate you, but I don’t believe in hate, it is a big word, full of meaning and evil. I have always said that love is a natural emotion, while hate is something learned,” wrote 14-year-old Dor Shulman, an Israeli student and author of a short story titled “Deep Inside There Is A Man.”
On April 29, Trinity High School had the pleasure of hosting five Israeli teenagers who were winners at the Waldman International Art and Writing competition. The students are all from Karmiel, a city in the Misgav region of Israel.
Pittsburgh and Karmiel run a parallel competition, and all of the winners were recognized in a ceremony in Pittsburgh in May 2019. The theme of this year’s competition was “Women in the Holocaust,” so each of the winner’s pieces focused on at least one aspect of this theme.
Trinity also had one winner in the competition this year, Senior Kody Oravetz, who wrote a short story about a young woman named Koraline and her struggles in the Holocaust.
Trinity was chosen as one of five schools in the Pittsburgh area for the Israeli winners to visit because of a pre-existing relationship between Trinity and the Pittsburgh Holocaust Center as developed by field trips taken by Ms. Kristen Shaw and her Honors English students over the last two years.
Not only did these five students come to Trinity to discuss their prize-winning artwork, via Powerpoint, but they also had the opportunity to take a tour of the high school and participate in a question and answer session with several Trinity students.
Prior to attending this lecture, several of the Trinity students had studied the Holocaust memoir Night by Elie Wiesel. The students were able to glean from this study, combined with the lecture, the idea that in order to prevent hate from continuing to permeate our society, people must learn from it and share messages of hope instead.
“I really felt their (the Israeli students’) passion and I feel like they conveyed the message that even though this horrible thing happened in our past, we can always find something good from it,” commented Sophomore and lecture attendee Jilian Sander.
During the session, the Israeli students discussed the events of their daily lives and humorously debunked several myths, such as “Israeli people only use camels as a form of transportation” and “Israel is an unsafe place.”
One Israeli student in particular, Raz Beker, enlightened the Trinity students on the compulsory military service in Israel beginning at age 18, for both men and women, and lasting for more than two years. Beker herself will be a member of the service in June of this year, and she, along with the other winners, is proud to be able to serve her country.
Of the five students, Yam Bendik, Michelle Lyszyk and Yahav Sapir entered into the visual arts portion, winning first, second and third prizes, respectively.
Bendik elected to sketch seven pictures portrayed within the pages of the novel Sophie’s Choice. This novel features the journey of a Polish woman, Sophie Zawistowski, during and after the Holocaust, so it seemed a good choice to Bendik to portray.
The second prize winner, Lyszyk, painted a picture she titled “The Jewish Madonna” featuring a mother suffocating her child so he would not be hurt by the Germans. Lyszyk got the idea for this painting from a story she had heard from her parents and completed it with acrylic and pastel mediums.
Sapir chose a simple, digital picture with featuring a picture of a woman and her daughter gazing at a picture (inside a museum exhibit) of women in the Auschwitz concentration camp, focusing on one of the women (within the picture) smiling amidst the gloom.
The remaining two students, Raz Beker and Shulman, entered the contest in the creative writing category. Beker wrote a poem based upon the story of Anna Zakrzewska, a teenage courier during World War II, who was killed in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The poem followed the struggle of friends sending letters to each other, trying to keep in contact while being separated during the Holocaust.
Shulman’s story features 17-year-old Sarah Levine, a girl imprisoned at the Warsaw Ghetto and her confrontation with a Nazi soldier.
The Israeli students unanimously agreed that getting to use their artistic capabilities to convey such a powerful message was an incredible experience, and they all enjoyed expressing their thoughts and emotions.
Artwork is possibly one of the most thought-provoking methods of communication available to humans. Getting the privilege to view such powerful ideas from “Women in the Holocaust” on an international level was a rare and enlightening opportunity for Trinity students.