Relating the past to the present: Holocaust Commission’s 2016 student competitions

by | Dec 18, 2015 | Other News

The official start of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Holocaust Commission’s 2016 Elie Wiesel Student Writing & Visual Arts Competitions was announced this month. This is the 19th year the Commission has invited students to enter the writing competition and the 14th 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 student entries can receive incentives, such as classroom sets of books and gift certificates for art supplies.

Sponsored by the Simon Family Foundation (writing) and TowneBank (visual arts), the 2016 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 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 be aware of what happens when there is indifference to the suffering of others. With the issues facing students today on the current events and political landscape, having a strong moral compass is critical. Bob Aston, president of TowneBank, knows this, saying, “Our bank is delighted to be [the Holocaust Commission’s] partner in such an important effort.”

The Holocaust Commission also announced the return of Through the Eyes of a Friend, with a limited run Feb. 1–12. The acclaimed multimedia theatrical presentation is based on Anne’ Frank’s brief, yet famous, life.

A Virginia Beach teacher has already scheduled a presentation in preparation for her students’ participation in the competitions, saying, “We had [you] come present Through the Eyes of a Friend for us two years ago, and it was a wonderful 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. To reserve now, or for more information, contact

Remind teachers and students to enter the 2016 Elie Wiesel Student Competitions. Can’t find the forms? Download them at Individual students may also enter without a sponsoring teacher. For more information, contact