[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine’s 26th Annual Meeting was held on Sunday, June 1st, 2014, at the Bates College dining commons.
Nearly 200 friends and supporters were on hand to celebrate the work and history of the HHRC.
Executive Director Liz Helitzer started the day with a welcome that set the tone:
“It has been incredibly exciting preparing for this event and I am so glad to be here with so many supporters of the HHRC, members from our Board of Directors, and our award winners and special honorees. Today is a celebration – of both the HHRC’s history, and of the great work that students and individuals in our community are doing today. In many ways, this event is a wonderful reminder of why we do the work we do.”
Following lunch, we awarded this year’s Lawrence Alan Spiegel Scholarship.
In order to be considered for the Lawrence Alan Spiegel Remembrance Scholarship, the applicant must be a high school senior who has been accepted to college, and submit an essay answering the question:
“Why is it important that the remembrance, history, and lessons of the Holocaust be passed to a new generation?”
The 2014 winner was Eli Cohen, a senior at Mount Blue High School in Farmington. He read his essay “What Can I Do?” Read Eli’s essay here. Eli Cohen Essay
The Lawrence Alan Spiegel Outstanding Student of the Year Award recognizes students who have produced an exceptional piece of original writing, fiction or non-fiction, or an unusually expressive work of visual or performance art relating to human rights.
This year’s winner was Molly Doyle, an 8th grader at Massabesic Middle School. Her website “Folks It’s A Hoax” – a debunking of Holocaust deniers – came in first at this year’s Maine National History Day in the category of Junior Individual Website.
Watch a video of Eli and Molly’s presentations, here.
The Holocaust and Human Rights Educator of the Year award publicly acknowledges a high-performing Maine educator who has demonstrated creativity, innovation, and extraordinary commitment to Holocaust and human rights education.
This year’s award went to Matthew Ryder, drama teacher at Windham High School for his work with his students on the Holocaust-based one act play “The Spirit of Life.”
Watch Matthew Ryder’s presentation, here.
The HHRC also took the opportunity to recognize two former directors for their dedication and service.
Sharon Nichols arrived to the HHRC as Executive Director in 1989 and led it for 18 years. Under her leadership, the HHRC moved from a cubicle in the Maine State Library building to the beautiful Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta. Watch Sharon Nichols’ presentation, here.
The plaque presented to Sharon and other recipients of lifetime achievement awards featured a beautiful digital image of the Klahr center created by photographer Mort Panish, husband of Evelyn, a Holocaust survivor living in Maine.
The event also provided an opportunity to honor Jutka and Irving Isaacson.
Their son Mark spoke eloquently about them, and they were awarded a Joint Lifetime Achievement Award for their untiring efforts at education and awareness in Maine. Read Mark’s remarks here. Watch Mark’s presentation, here.
Board President Jed Davis introduced our guest of honor, Gerda Haas, the founding mother of the HHRC. Watch Gerda Haas’ presentation, here.
Gerda greeted many old friends and shared her story.
Liz and Gerda presented the first Gerda Haas Award for Excellence in Human Rights Education and Leadership to Betsy Parsons.
Betsy Parsons is an educator and founding member of GLSEN-Southern Maine, a regional chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. With the goal of creating safe K-12 schools for all, GLSEN was instrumental in helping schools across the country organize Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), school clubs where students of all sexual orientations could be together and learn creative ways of confronting violence in their schools. In the 1990s, Deering High School students asked Betsy to help them organize the second public school GSA in Maine.
Today Gay Straight-Transgender Alliances (GSTAs, as they are now commonly called here) are at work in about half of Maine’s high schools and some middle schools, reducing hate language and bias-based harassment through efforts like Ally Week and Day of Silence. Betsy serves as GLSEN-Southern Maine’s GSTA Coordinator, organizing educational programs, supporting GSTA faculty advisors and advising a regional team of GSTA student leaders from many high schools. She is inspired by the courage, compassion and resiliency of Maine’s GSTA youth as they make their schools more peaceful and affirming places for all. Watch Besty Parsons’ presentation, here.
The 2014 HHRC Annual Meeting was sponsored by: Brann & Isaacson, the Ladd Library at Bates College, the Ross Family, Jeremy & Kerry Sclar and Temple Shalom in Auburn.
Thanks to all for your support!
Thanks also to Lee Arnott and Sweet Thunder Productions for the videos!