Relating the past to the present: Holocaust Commission announces 2015 student competitions

Earlier this month, the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater announced the official start of its 2015 Elie Wiesel Student Writing & Visual Arts Competitions.

This is the 18th year the Commission has invited students to enter the writing competition and the 13th year for visual arts. The contests’ namesake is a Jewish Holocaust survivor, Nobel Laureate, and author of 57 books, many with powerful Holocaust themes.

Each year the commission receives more than 1,500 entries from area students, and, more recently—thanks to an online presence, out-of-state and foreign entries.

Open to middle and high school students, competition categories include poetry, essay, two and three-dimensional art and multimedia.

Winners in each category receive cash prizes, recognition at the annual community Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Day of Remembrance program, and, if an art winner, a place in the annual Holocaust Commission student art exhibition.

Educators, too, can be winners in the competitions. Teachers who submit a certain percentage of student entries receive incentives, such as classroom sets of books and gift certificates.

Sponsored by the Simon Family Foundation (writing) and TowneBank (visual arts), the 2015 Elie Wiesel competitions ask students to frame their entries in response to a series of thought-provoking questions connecting lessons of the Holocaust to present day situations and moral decisions.

The Holocaust Commission believes that by learning about the Holocaust and applying its lessons to their lives, students can gain an understanding of the true nature of moral courage. They will realize the dangers of all types of prejudice, peer pressure, and unthinking obedience to authority, and are aware of what happens when there is indifference to the suffering of others.

In addition to its Elie Wiesel Competitions, the Holocaust Commission announced the return of Through the Eyes of a Friend, with a limited run from February 2-13. The acclaimed multimedia theatrical presentation is based on Anne Frank’s brief, yet famous, life.

Last year a Norfolk teacher saw the show for the first time, and said the incredible performance inspired the students, who “went back to their Elie Wiesel writing contest pieces to ‘tweak’ things after their experience!”

Schools pay only a minimal fee for Through the Eyes; Amy Goldberg and the Helen G. Gifford Foundation provide underwriting to offset costs. Early booking is recommended; contact to reserve now, or for more information.

Remind teachers and students to enter the 2015 Elie Wiesel Student Competitions. Can’t find the forms? Download them at Individual students may enter without a sponsoring teacher. For more information, contact