Event’s theme: ‘Do Not Stand Silent’
By Jessica Hardin
Dr. Lauren Apter Bairnsfather’s work after the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh exemplifies the local theme of this year’s Yom Hoshoah commemoration program: “Do Not Stand Silent.”
In her keynote address at the Jewish Community Center’s Shoah Memorial Ceremony on Sunday, Dr. Bairnsfather, director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, explained that she responded to the tragedy with increased outreach efforts.
On Oct. 27, a lone gunman entered the synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood and opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring seven others. It stands as the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.
“On Nov. 5, I did an assembly at a local high school for 1,200 students, and that set the tone for how we started to respond. We started to talk a lot more about anti-Semitism than we had,” Dr. Bairnsfather said.
Since then, Dr. Bairnsfather has conducted 25 field trips and spoken about anti-Semitism in local churches, universities and prisons. She even taught about the Holocaust at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
In her presentations, she highlights the connections between anti-Semitism and forms of hate.
When teaching at the state penitentiary in Fayette, Pa., Dr. Bairnsfather said, “As I always say when I’m having these conversations, the people who hate us, hate all minority groups.”
Next up for Dr. Bairnsfather are teacher trainings, aimed at empowering teachers to effectively teach about the Holocaust.
“It is really intimidating to take on the subject of the Holocaust,” Dr. Bairnsfather said. “Most of the educators we work with are not Jewish. They need support. They’re committed. They want to do a good job, and that’s our goal.”
The recent spike in violence against the Jewish community makes her work increasingly relevant.
“We don’t want these opportunities, but we’re not going to let them slip away,” Dr. Bairnsfather said.
Sunday’s event also highlighted opportunities to learn about the Holocaust in Youngstown.
Dr. Jacob Labendz, the Youngstown State University Clayman Assistant Professor of Judaic and Holocaust Studies, announced the opening of “The Tragedy of Slovak Jews,” an exhibit on the Holocaust in Slovakia. The exhibit is on display at the Tyler History Center until May 31.