At the Merage JCC students take Holocaust learning out of the classroom

Published Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Israelis – and many Jews throughout the world – mark May 1 as Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Sage Hill High School students will mark the occasion as an opportunity to learn about the Holocaust without the text books. On Thursday 32 students visit the Merage Jewish Community Center where their Holocaust education will include a global effort in art honoring the children victims and finally will meet with a Holocaust survivor to hear his account of the atrocities. Learning rarely feels so real.


The Butterfly Project: a global education and arts program

The Merage JCC has partnered with The Butterfly Project, whose mission is to paint and display ceramic butterflies honoring and remembering children killed in the Holocaust, and fostering education and awareness of the dangers of hate and bigotry.

The goal is to paint one butterfly for each of the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust. The butterflies were inspired by Pavel Friedman, a young teen living at the Terezin Concentration Camp in the 1940s. Pavel wrote a poem entitled "The Butterfly," about a child who watched a butterfly in all its glory, flying around "the ghetto," and then never seeing one again. "Butterflies don't live in here, in the ghetto," the poem states.

To date, installations totaling more than 150,000 butterflies have been created in communities of all faiths across the United States and in such diverse countries as Israel, Mexico, Poland, Australia, Czech Republic, Canada and Argentina.

The Butterfly Project’s co-founder, Cheryl Rattner Price explains “The butterflies can mean so many things… they can mean freedom and transformation. But sometimes when I see these butterflies piled up in stacks going into the kiln, it can be very disturbing. Then when they come out so shiny and beautiful, it’s symbolic of new life emerging from the flames.”

Butterflies painted at the Merage JCC by students and the community will adorn the walls of the Chasin Holocaust Memorial Garden at the heart of the JCC’s center.  

Jack Pariser: Holocaust survivor

Sage Hill students will also have the opportunity to meet Jack Pariser, a Holocaust survivor, and hear first-hand his harrowing story of survival. Jack is a mesmerizing storyteller with a horrific tale. Nonetheless, Jack is dedicated to sharing his story guaranteeing that genocide never happens again. He says that to prevent hate “one cannot be reactive; you can only be proactive,”and that educating the public is the essential.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum studying the Holocaust helps students understand the roots and ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping in any society develop an acceptance of diversity and explore the dangers of remaining silent, apathetic, and indifferent to the oppression of others.


Merage JCC's Yom Hashoah event is part of Reflections, a month-long series of programs, traces the journey from the darkest days of Jewish history, the Holocaust, to the pinnacle of Jewish peoplehood, the State of Israel.  Reflections includes programs for all ages and offers multiple opportunities for the entire Orange County community to REFLECT on our heritage, ENGAGE in Jewish learning, EXPERIENCE Jewish culture, and FEEL connected to Israel.


Thank you to our Reflections sponsors: Dana & Yossie Hollander and Doris & Martin Melnick. The Reflections series is a project of Center for Jewish Life and operated in collaboration with Jewish Federation & Family Services of Orange County.


More information on the Reflections series »