Marist’s 26th Annual Holocaust Remembrance Day
Students and Members of the Community Come Together in Reflection
According to the Hebrew Calendar, the 27th day of Nisan marks Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is an internationally recognized event, which Marist College consistently takes part in every Spring. Marist’s 26th Annual Holocaust Remembrance was revamped this year, to create a more interactive experience.
Major additions to the evening included selections from the Diary of Anne Frank, which the Marist College Club for Theatre Arts put on last October. The cast reunited to compile a few scenes from the show, and perform them for audiences at the Remembrance.
They group was asked to put together 18 minutes worth of material from the show. “We chose scenes and Anne’s monologs that we thought were appropriate and would tie the themes together,” says Jim Steinmeyer, an adjunct theater professor who directed the original production, and the recently abridged performance. “It was kind of like a reader’s digest condensed version,” he explains.
The scenes began with Mr. Frank instructing the family on how to behave, and remain hidden, in the annex. “We felt that kind of set the tone of exactly what this family went through,” Steinmeyer says.
The middle of the piece went in and out of scenes from Hanukkah, visits, and warnings from outside of the annex, and monologs, expressing Anne’s fears. In the last scene of the play, Mr. Frank explains the journey and eventual death of each person in the story. This is how the cast chose to end their eighteen minutes.
Sarah Williams, Marist’s choral director and a member of the Remembrance committee, had invited the cast to be a part of the new structure of the event. “She knew that we had done Anne Frank, and came up with a different format, something new, where the Diary fit right in,” Steinmeyer explains.
In the past 25 years, attendees would crowd into the theater and remain there for the length of the event. From their seats, everyone would listen to the opening speaker, and the Chamber Choir’s performance, which has always been a meaningful way to remember the Holocaust. However, this year, the new structure of the evening was able to more effectively represent the tragedy and involve attendees.
This year, as the crowd gathered in the theater to listen to the guest speaker, they received a program with a color-coded piece. After the speech, everyone divided into different groups based on their assigned color.
“They weren’t filed together,” says Steinmeyer, “so we would all be separated into different rooms.” He goes on to explain how this embodied the idea of the Holocaust, “where they take families and just divide them.”
The groups were herded apart, into three separate rooms, each with 18-minute exhibits. At the end of each time slot, a bell would ring, and the group would move into the next room. In addition to the Diary of Anne Frank performance, the Marist College Chamber Choir performed a set of appropriate songs, and the art department contributed fine art pieces of similar subject matter.
Ed Smith, an art professor at Marist has done a series on the Holocaust before, which he loans to museums and galleries across the North East. His work and that of other professors and students were displayed in a conference room across from the theater.
Some might wonder how a college with roots in Catholicism, ended up so involved in this support of the Jewish people. “Marist has had a long tradition of connection to the Jewish community in Poughkeepsie,” says Steinmeyer. “They were big on ecumenical projects where churches, regardless of denomination, would come together with the same objective,” he recalls of his time as an undergraduate at Marist.
In particular, he remembers reaching out to other faiths through theater. Steinmeyer performed in multiple shows with Jewish families and tradition. In support, Jewish people in the area would often attend their performances.
Members of the Jewish community still come out to Marist for the Holocaust Remembrance every year. This year, the featured speaker was Holocaust survivor, Dr. Moshe Avital. He recounted his experiences as an inmate in camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Additionally, local Holocaust survivor, Michael Silberstein was in attendance, after speaking at the event last year.
Especially after these recent changes, Holocaust Remembrance Day always provides something to reflect upon. Marist students and members of the local community can benefit from experiencing it year after to year.
Written by Sarah Gabrielli '18
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