Commemorate The Holocaust Yom HaShoah Program Offered At The Jewish Cultural Center

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Yom HaShoah is a candle lighting commemoration honoring the memory of the six million people who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

The event will take place on Wednesday, April 11, at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Cultural Center, 5461 North Terrace Road. There is no cost to attend.

A local Holocaust survivor, family members of survivors, and leadership from the Jewish community will light candles and speak as part of the event. Introduced by One Clip At A Time founder, Alison Lebovitz, a conversation with Linda Hooper and current and former Whitwell Middle School students discussing the Paperclips Project will follow the candle lighting.

In 1998, Linda M. Hooper, principal of Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell, asked Assistant Principal David Smith to find a voluntary after-school project to teach the children about tolerance. Mr. Smith and Sandra Roberts started a Holocaust education program and held the first class in the fall of 1998. Soon the students were overwhelmed with the massive scale of the Holocaust and asked Ms. Hooper if they could collect something to represent the lives that were exterminated during the Holocaust. Ms. Hooper responded that they could if they could find something that related to the Holocaust or to World War II.

Through Internet research, the students discovered that Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian, designed a loop of metal, and the Norwegians wore paperclips on their lapels during World War II  as a silent protest against Nazi  occupation. The students decided to collect 6,000,000 paper clips to represent the estimated 6,000,000 Jews killed between 1939 and 1945 under the authority of the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler.

At first the project went slowly, as it did not gain much publicity. Students created a website and sent out letters to friends, family and celebrities. The project began to snowball after it received attention from Peter and Dagmar Schroeder, journalists who were born in Germany during World War II and who covered the White House for German newspapers. They published  some articles as well as a book, Das Büroklammer- Projekt (The Paper Clip Project) published in September 2000, that promoted the  project in Germany. The big break in the US came with an article in the Washington Post on April 7, 2001, written by Dita Smith.

Because of the Paper Clips Project, students in Whitwell have had life changing experiences. Selected middle school students receiving training to become docents for a tour of the library-sized collection and the boxcar that once held captives on their way to concentration camps. Whitwell has experienced international tourism as people from all over the world visit the project. In addition, the community as a whole begun to institutionalize an understanding of tolerance and difference.

The Jewish Cultural Center, funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, offers programs, classes and exhibits, social services, and a preschool—all rooted in Jewish values.  The facility enables the Jewish community to raise its visibility, foster relationships, and strengthen its identity in the Chattanooga area. Located at 5461 North Terrace, the Center and its programs are open to everyone regardless of religious affiliation.


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