The annual Spokane Community Observance of the Holocaust scheduled for April 26 at Temple Beth Shalom has been canceled, but the art and essay contests associated with the remembrance are still underway, with the winners to be announced in the coming weeks.
Event co-chair Hershel Zellman said the decision to cancel the annual observance was made this week. He said Temple Beth Shalom has moved to virtual Sabbath services and closed its offices.
“Everything’s being canceled,” he said. “They don’t know for sure when anything will reopen.”
Another factor organizers considered was that the Lewis and Clark band would no longer be available to perform at the event as scheduled.
“It won’t be postponed,” Zellman said. “It’s definitely canceled. The Holocaust observance is a set date on the Jewish calendar.”
During the Holocaust the Nazis killed 6 million Jews as well as 5 million others they considered unsuitable, including the disabled, homosexuals and Romani.
With the cancelation decision just made, Zellman said organizers are just beginning to consider whether there are any other options for a Holocaust observance event.
“We have no plans at this point to do something different, something virtual,” he said.
Every year middle school and high school students are asked to submit essays and art projects based on a Holocaust remembrance theme. This year’s theme is “Superheroes of the Holocaust: When Ordinary People Become Extraordinary.” Students were encouraged to learn about how some people helped save Jews from death during the Holocaust.
This year organizers received 35 art projects from high school students and 61 from middle schoolers. Written essays were submitted by 124 middle school students and 47 high school students.
“We’re pleased with the response that we got,” Zellman said. “We’re pleased the teachers are teaching about the Holocaust. The number of high school entries we got was five times as many as we got last year. They were really down last year.”
Zellman said he was impressed by the quality of the entries, particularly the art. Normally the art is put on display at the annual event, and this year there were plans to have an exhibit at the Gonzaga University School of Law as well. Students were allowed to create their work in any medium, including painting, sculptures and drawings.
“We really wish we could have displayed it,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Judging is still under way. The winners of the art and essay contests will be announced in mid-April. The art contest winners in each category will have pictures of their work published in The Spokesman-Review. The winning essays in each category will be printed in the newspaper and the top three essays in each category will appear online at spokesman.com.
The winners will receive scholarships in amounts ranging from $75 to $400 depending on the category and place.
Zellman said he’s disappointed that the event has to be canceled, but said it’s important to keep the community safe. He’s also disappointed that receptions planned for the art contest entrants and essay writers at Gonzaga University have also been canceled.
“I feel particularly sad for the kids, because they’re getting less recognition than they would have,” he said.
People who normally come to the annual event are sure to be disappointed as well, Zellman said.
“Many of them are regulars,” he said. “They come to give us support and they won’t be able to come this year.”
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