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John Jay High School’s Campus Congress has invited Judith Altmann, a Holocaust survivor, to share her incredible story with John Jay High School juniors and
seniors on Thursday, February 23, and freshmen and sophomores on Friday, February 24.
The presentation follows the incidents of swastikas found on John Jay High School property in the last two months. “I heard Mrs. Altmann speak when my AP European History class went to a Holocaust workshop in New Rochelle,” said Simrit Uppal, Speaker of John Jay’s Campus Congress, and one of the student leaders who helped set up the visit. “Everyone was so amazed by her and her message.”
Altmann, who was born in Jasina, Czechoslovakia, in 1924, was sent to several concentration and labor camps, including Auschwitz, Essen, and Gelsenkirchen. She survived the death march that ended in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Sick with typhus, Judy was barely alive when she was liberated by the British Army in 1945.
Altmann emigrated first to Sweden, and then to the United States in 1948. She has been speaking about the horrors of the Holocaust ever since.
Her two biggest messages: “Learn all you can because no one can take it away from you,” and “If you see any injustice in the world, stand up. Don't just say it doesn’t concern me.”
Altmann is a member of the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Speakers Bureau and is Vice President of the Holocaust Child Survivors of Connecticut.
Altmann’s visit to John Jay High School is a collaborative initiative from the students of Campus Congress and the administration.
Superintendent Andrew Selesnick held a community forum on Thursday, February 16, attended by more than one hundred people. The predominant perspective in the room that evening was the desire to condemn the incidents of hate graffiti and to stand up for a positive, unifying message.
“We need to teach kids to be up standers not bystanders,” said one parent.
District administration was commended by many parents for their transparent communication with the school community about the swastika graffiti incidents. Superintendent Selesnick was also asked about the consequences for the three students who were apprehended in the first incident.
“I won’t speak publicly about specific consequences for individual students,” said Selesnick. He did indicate, more generally, that consequences for this type of infraction would include suspension and an educational component.
“Each September we review the Code of Conduct which is very clear on violations and consequences,” said Dr. Siciliano, the High School Principal.
Both students and Superintendent Selesnick are consulting with the Anti-Defamation League, as well as organizations such as Facing History and Ourselves, while planning how best to move forward.
“We have no tolerance for hate, and will work together as a community to send that message over and over again,” said Superintendent Selesnick.