NEWBURGH – For Father Mark Connell, founder and executive director of the San Miguel Program in Newburgh, there are parallels between the bigotry and prejudice that are growing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the intolerance and narrowmindedness that led to the Holocaust. That is why this year’s Yom HaShoah ceremony at the school, which like most across the globe was held on April 21 online, was more poignant than ever. Yom HaShoah, the annual remembrance of the Holocaust, is observed so that that needless slaughter of six million Jews is never forgotten.
The school works with the Dutchess County Interfaith Council and Rabbi Erwin Zimet Memorial Institute Committee to weave the lessons of the Holocaust into all four years at the school, culminating with a trip to the Jewish Museum in New York City.
“Our students understand discrimination; they live with it on a daily basis and the lessons of the Holocaust have always resonated with them. Yom HaShoah was established to remind us that the world stood silently by and let the worst mass murder in the history of humankind take place,” says Father Connell. “This year, we find ourselves in the grip of a global pandemic that is spawning its own untruths, racism and fanaticism. Yom HaShoah teaches us that the world can spiral out of control. Hopefully, if we never forget, history will never repeat itself.”
Three students, wearing masks and maintaining proper social distance, read poems written by children who were imprisoned at the Terezin concentration camp from 1942 to 1944. The other fifty-five students and teachers gathered online. The San Miguel Program works with young men who have been designated by the public schools as having a high risk of failure, and offers 12 years of human services that begin with middle school and continue through college.