Sound of Charlotte Blog
Music and the Holocaust Makes an ImpactJanuary 31, 2023
On November 18, 2021, The Gizella Abramson Holocaust Education Act was passed into law, making North Carolina one of just nineteen states in the United States to mandate Holocaust education in public middle and high schools. With the act taking effect in the 2023-24 school year, the Charlotte Symphony's Music and the Holocaust program is poised to address the growing need for supplemental education about the Holocaust in our schools.
Music and the Holocaust features an ensemble of Charlotte Symphony musicians performing music of significance during this tumultuous period in history. Through this music, students learn about Jewish culture and the horrors of the Holocaust. The music features a mix of traditional Jewish music -- which was forbidden and considered "degenerate" by the Nazis -- music composed in the concentration camps, and music that evokes survival and healing. Each concert includes narration and projected images that explore pre-WWII Jewish culture, the Third Reich's attempts to control art and culture, the role of music and musicians in the concentration camps, and how the European Jewish community refused to be silenced.
Mitch Rifkin is Chairman of the North Carolina Holocaust Foundation, a non-profit that helps fund the many programs offered by the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust such as teacher workshops, traveling plays and exhibits, and speaking engagements.
Why was The Holocaust Education Act so important to advance the work that you're already doing?
[The Act] passed after a lot of hard work, as you can imagine. We are excited about the fact that it came about because of all the right reasons. Not just talking about the horrors of the holocaust, but about how the holocaust came to be and that it could happen again -- meaning the hatred prevails -- and how one man was able to exterminate 12 million people.
How is the Foundation and the N.C. Council on the Holocaust preparing educators for this upcoming school year?
To teach this topic properly, educators need to understand the facts behind the holocaust. We hold nine seminars a year where we bring teachers in to learn these facts and how to address holocaust denial and distortion. We also sponsor a bus trip that takes educators to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. It truly is enlightening for them, and they come back and tell other teachers about their experiences. The curriculum being written by the Council is designed to teach the holocaust correctly, how it came to be, so we can avoid this happening again.
How can a program like the Charlotte Symphony's Music and the Holocaust help to educate students?
Music is important, there's no question. When I attended Music and the Holocaust, I noticed that the students were engaged, they weren't wiggling in their seats, they were paying attention to the music, so that's 90% of the battle -- getting them engaged. I think your music and this topic are current. The rise of hatred in America, and globally, today is horrific. There is so much hatred in the world, and certainly the rise of antisemitism is a daily occurrence. When you see people like Kanye West and Kyrie Irving, with a huge following on social media, put that junk out there and no one contradicts them, it's horrible. But we contradict it. And we try to bring forth the understanding of how we, as a people, should be more tolerant of each other.
Learn more about the Charlotte Symphony's Music and the Holocaust program.
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