Holocaust survivor Rena Finder to visit Westborough
By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Rena Finder, who survived the Holocaust due to the efforts of Oskar Schindler, will talk about her experience at an event to be held at Westborough High School (WHS) Friday, April 26, at 7 p.m. The event will be sponsored by the Westborough Friends of Facing History and Ourselves Foundation (FHAO). Tickets will be available at the door.
The 1993 movie “Schindler’s List” told the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. Finder was one of those people who actually survived, because she and her mother were able to find work at one of his manufacturing facilities. At age 13, she was forced into the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Schindler relocated a factory to Czechoslovakia and was able to get the SS to send his former workers to his new plant; thus, Finder’s life was saved.
At the April 26 event, students who have taken the Facing History and Ourselves course at the high school will also share their own stories of how they have used what they have learned in this class to stand up to real life situations of intolerance and cruelty. The evening’s program will include refreshments. T-shirts and wristbands will be sold as part of the event.
The WHS course is based on curriculum established by the Brookline-based FHAO. Its mission is to teach ways to fight racism, prejudice and apathy by reviewing past historical events. Educators are trained to teach civic responsibility, tolerance and social action to young people as a way of fostering moral adulthood.
The foundation believes that the keys to combatting bigotry, misinformation, indifference and prejudice are compassion, participation and knowledge. Its mission is to empower people with the courage to stand up for what’s right and have coined a new word, “upstander” to describe “a person who takes action, particularly when the easiest or most acceptable course is to do nothing.” Wristbands bearing the word “upstander” will be available to show support for the work of the FHAO.
Sondra Bloch is the president of the Westborough FHAO.
“We have an incredible group of energetic, passionate board members who are excited to work on our first annual fundraiser. We hope to raise awareness and money so that we can fund our scholarship program, train teachers for the course, and to educate our community. Our goal is to encourage ‘upstanders’ rather than ‘bystanders,’’ she explained.
“We want kids to speak up if they see injustice, whether it’s bullying or larger societal issues,” said Bloch. Initially the course had one section for seniors; now there are four sections for juniors and seniors with an honors section. There is still a waiting list of over 200 students interested in taking the class.
Along with other community volunteers, the Friends work on all three aspects of the Facing History program: the class at WHS; the Friends’ group activities; and a WHS extracurricular student group.
The local FHAO group raises money and provides the sponsorship for speakers, pays for teacher training, provides resources to supplement the curriculum, and funds student scholarships.
Students at WHS have formed a Facing History and Ourselves Club, which supplements the classroom lessons. They realize that individuals can impact their school, the community and the larger societal culture for the better.
According to Bloch, “Even if you can’t attend [the April 26 presentation], donations would be greatly appreciated. We need funds to support our work.”
Tax deductible contributions may be mailed to: Westborough Friends of Facing History and Ourselves Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 1323, Westborough, MA 01581.
To learn more, go to www.westborough-facinghistory.com.
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