Students of Riverside have been making trips to the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre every year to participate in the Holocaust Symposium. The annual trips are led by History 12 teacher, Mr. Ben Lepore.           

The Holocaust Symposium is held every May at the University of British Columbia. Students interact with survivors of the Holocaust in small groups, they watch a film, and hear from a Historian on the impacts and events of the Holocaust.

“The primary objective of the Symposium is to get the story of the genocide out, to get students to understand what happened and why,” said Lepore.                                                                                                            

Students listening at the recent Symposium.

Lepore added that Antisemitism is part of another strand of the discriminatory attitudes that it falls into. Whether it is Jews, African Americans, Indigenous people or Muslims, an intolerance has a long history.          

Antisemitism is a term that is used to define the discrimination towards Jewish people; it was created in 1879 by a German journalist named Wilhelm Marr. The discrimination towards Jews goes far back into history, Jewish people have often faced cruel consequences for remaining a separate cultural and religious group.

Once Christianity began to become more common, Antisemitism spread through Europe. In certain cities, Jewish people were required to single themselves out by wearing a badge or a hat called a Judenhut.

During the Nazi regime, Jewish people were considered a separate race, laws were made to classify people considered Jewish, and they had no right to vote or claim citizenship. The hatred and ideologies surrounding the Jewish population resulted in mass devastation, caused by the murder of over six million people in concentration camps. This murder was led by nationalistic leader, Adolf Hitler.

Today, Jewish people are increasingly accepted with the ability to live freely within society. However, it is important to continue to challenge discrimination and educate younger generations on antisemitism and history.

“Antisemitism has been around for centuries, to think that you can eliminate it is a bit naïve; we need to be on top of it and address the situation because it is ongoing,” said Lepore

On October 27,2018 a shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania occurred at the Tree of  Life Synagogue; 11 Jewish community members were killed by an anti- Semite.

Lepore commented that the Symposium also intends to spark critical thinking because it asks students and people in general to think about why others feel compelled to discriminate against other people. What is it about human nature that causes us to want to do this? Today, not only Jewish people, but Muslims and Mexicans are vilified by an equally populist leader as Hitler- Trump.

“As long as there are people that feel hate towards other groups, racial, religious, and ethnic, discrimination will continue; especially when certain things on the political scene give it spike,” said Lepore.

It is important to keep the topic of Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust alive because it is a major historical event and it continues to affect our society. There will never be a set point where discrimination will end; however, it can be improved.

Photo courtesy of  Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre Website and Vancouver Sun