Holocaust Art & Writing Contest
Holocaust Art & Writing Contest

Holocaust Art & Writing Contest

Since 2000, Chapman University has continued to run its Holocaust Art & Writing Contest through the school’s Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education, and this year marks the 24th annual contest.

Middle school, high school and international students can enter to compete for cash prizes, as well as an expense-paid trip for first-place winners and their parents and teachers to visit the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and other historical sites in the area.  Last year, students from 32 states and 11 countries entered.

“One of the best things we’ve seen come out of the contest is the way students connect with each other,” says Jessica MyLymuk, Assistant Director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education.  “It’s a gift that keeps on giving because they get the full educational trip and experience, but also get to make lifelong connections they take with them afterward.”

This year’s theme is “The Strength of Love and the Will to Survive,” and participants have the opportunity to enter in the art, film, poetry or prose categories.

“When people think of the Holocaust, they understandably tend to think of only dark and difficult times, but it’s incredibly important to draw lessons from the past in a way that is empowering and inspiring,” says Marilyn Harran, Director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education.  “What we do at the center and with the contest is important because we’re interacting with young people at a time when their minds can be shaped to make an impact on the future.”

As a yearly contest requirement, contestants must view a full-length survivor or rescuer testimony to inform their submission and draw inspiration.  The testimonies give students a holistic view of the story they retell through art or writing and provide a sense of the survivor’s life before, during and after the Holocaust.

“When students listen to the full-length testimony, they hear how the survivors were resilient and rebuilt their lives,” says MyLymuk.  “It’s not just about the victimization; it’s about the entire human experience.”

In past years, students had the chance to meet survivors directly at the awards ceremony, which is taking place for the 24th annual contest on March 10th.

“Sometimes we’ve been able to have survivors join the ceremony, and they’re the ones about whom the students have done their work,” says Harran.  “It was magical to see the students meeting the survivors, and everybody would burst into tears at the same moment.”

The awards ceremony will take place in Chapman’s Memorial Hall and has often reached the 1,000-person capacity in previous years.

“The contest’s content focuses on serious and difficult, but uplifting topics.  At the ceremony, we try to highlight the uplifting aspects,” says Harran.  “We have music from the Orange County Klezmers and Kosher food.  It’s a chance for students and their educators to interact with survivors and second- and third-generation survivors.”

At their core, both the contest and the center share a mission of humanizing history.  Every day, Harran, MyLymuk and the entire team share lessons from history that make Chapman’s center one of the most prolific and dynamic Holocaust programs in the country.  Harran sees the center as a function to teach and inform the next generation of students.

“With the recent upswing of anti-Semitism happening, it’s incredibly important to not be silent when smaller prejudices and jokes happen,” she says.  “A lot of the time, the Holocaust gets equated with numbers, but we want to remind everyone it’s about stories.  We want to build a lifelong interest and maybe even love for history as part of the human story.”

To enter, students must postmark their pieces by February 1st, 2023, or submit online by February 3rd: www.Chapman.edu/research/institutes-and-centers/holocaust-education/holocaust-art-and-writing-contest/index.aspx

Article Published in the
Jan / Feb 23 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
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