Meeting Arthur Spielman was an honor. It was so special to be able to have be able to talk and get to know Arthur on a personal level. Spending time with him alone, I realized he was more than just a holocaust survivor, a naive misconception I had before meeting him. Mr. Spielman’s warm heart was what impressed me the most about him. From our first “hellos”, he was so kind, gentle, and caring. He showed a honest interest in my life and seemed so happy. Anytime we shared a conversation, the twinkle in his eye kept an ongoing infectious smile on face, an effect only a few important people have have made on my life. It was a pleasure getting to know him.
Teaching young people about the Holocaust was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It felt incredible being able to engage students on a topic as important as the Holocaust. The most rewarding aspect of the experience was seeing how interested and inattentive the student were regarding the topic of the Holocaust. Nothing is as rewarding as seeing how interested the students were and the questions they asked. It was truly inspiring to the see how mature the students became when learning about the subject. I found it compelling the way students were able to respond to the persecutions some groups of people during the Holocaust faced, and were able to compare those to the own persecutions they have experience or have seen for themselves being done to others. The students really enjoyed learning about the Holocaust and reflecting on their own lives and the choices they have made. For myself, it was a great experience as a inspiring teacher to teach the students such a heavy topic and it was so special that they enjoyed learning about the Holocaust as much as they did.
I hope the students will remember the importance of the Holocaust and why it is important to remember the Holocaust. Even if they don’t remember the dates or all of the specific events that happened, I hope they can reflect on the events of the Holocaust and how they make them feel. Hopefully, they remember the survivor they met and how they felt being able to meet him. I think they realize what a special experience it was for them to meet a survivor and that it is not something that many students have the pleasure of doing. It would be great if they could remember the last thing Arthur Spielman said in response to a student asking if he ever forgave Arthur for the things the Nazi’s did to him, “It is not my place to forgive them.” I hope the students remember Arthur his stories, but mostly, the hope and positivity Arthur has carried with him through life. That through it all, he preserved and is the generous man, who seems at peace and has learned so much from the events following the Holocaust, that he is today.
It is important to remember the Holocaust because as individuals we learn from history. Although genocides like the Holocaust have occurred, people have learned some things from the Holocaust. Whether it be about hatred, or survival, even about being a bystander to the situation, people who have learned about the Holocaust have heard about these themes and hopefully, have reflected on the events of the Holocaust. Future generations who learn of these events, are the same people who will be able to stop horrific moments in history like this from repeating themselves. The story of the Holocaust also teaches basic themes such as love, being a citizen/bystander and what anyone, even those who are not being targeted, can do in moments like this.
This program is valuable for Wagner College to have because Staten Island has a significant population of Jewish people. Especially with the diverse groups of people on the Island, I think it is important to understand and be open to different ethnicities, races, and religions. Although the Holocaust was a terrible genocide and is an event that should have never been repeated in history, there are similar situations that have occurred. Having this center at Wagner will give students the opportunity to better understand the events and connect to the feelings of those who were alive at the time, so hopefully, a travesty like this will not occur again. This was such a wonderful opportunity for myself, especially growing up in the midwest where the jewish population is very small, because I was able to learn about another religion and connect with the jewish community.
With thanks to:
Artie Driscoll, Social Studies Teacher, Lisa Pollari, Asst. Principal and Tim Gannon, Principal of Port Richmond High School, and to the Chai Society, Wagner College.