Kristallnacht Commemoration at Queens College

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On November 12, Townsend Harris High School chorus students gathered together at Queens College to commemorate an important historical event that took place in World War II, where their performance enlivened the event and made it a more memorable experience for those who attended.

The  annual Kristallnacht commemoration was presented by the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College. Otherwise known as the “Night of Broken Glass,” the name Kristallnacht refers to the anti-Jewish violence that took place on November 9 and November 10 in 1938. At the commemoration, students from Queens College and THHS gathered with Holocaust survivors to recount the horrors of World War II and unite against anti-Semitism. This year’s event featured clips from the classic film “Casablanca,”  a candle-lighting ceremony to memorialize victims, musical performances, and keynote speaker Noah Isenberg, author of We’ll Always Have ‘Casablanca:’ The Life, Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie as well as a plethora of other novels.

“The event called attendees to remember one of the most horrific events of the Holocaust and to recommit people to combat anti-Semitism and hatred. It was a poignant, emotional experience,” said Special Education Coordinator Georgia Brandeis, one of the teachers who attended the event.

“I thought it was a very emotional and emphatic event, especially when people in the audience came up to share their experience or their relatives’ experience involving the Holocaust,” said Jonathan Hong, one of the performers.

Many have noted that the beautiful musical performance by Japanese teacher MarikonSato and her chorus students was one of the most memorable highlights from this year’s commemoration. To complement the theme of the event, Dr. Sato also sang the national anthem for both the United States and Israel. Ms. Brandeis commented that the performance “took [her] breath away.”

Performer Bria London described her experience: “When our group performed, the crowd absolutely loved it; many of them were clapping along, and some were even videotaping us! It was not only an honor to perform on behalf of Townsend Harris, but as a Jewish individual, I was proud to be able to perform in honor of such an awful event in Jewish history.

Moreover, the students who attended also had the opportunity to listen to a very informative lecture on Casablanca, a movie set during World War II and showcases the struggles that people endured, the emotional toll on people living at that time period, and the influence that the events in World War II had on movies such as this. This made it an unforgettable learning experience for many students.

“It was very interesting and informative,” Ms. Brandeis remarked.

However, though the event was both fun and emotional, it is not only a commemoration for the victims of World War II, but a reminder of the significance of remembering such key events in world history to prevent us from repeating the same mistakes in the future. All of the people who attended the event were inspired by what they heard and saw and learned lessons in pride, overcoming obstacles, and the dangers of racism.

Ms. Brandeis reflects on the experience: “It’s important to see survivors come out and reflect and share what they have overcome. I will certainly be attending future events, and encouraging students to attend as well.”