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Seven sophomore students from the Academy were selected to join the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Leadership Day Conference. ICJA students represented the only Jewish day school present at the conference students for high schools from all over Chicago and the suburbs to learn about the Holocaust and social justice.

The goal of Student Leadership Day is to increase awareness about the Holocaust, genocide, and human rights, and to help participants think about lessons we can learn from the past. This year’s program focused on hidden stories of human rights and atrocity. Students explored how and why certain social justice issues and histories become marginalized, leading participants to work together to create action plans to “unsilence” prejudice, indifference, and injustice in their local and global communities. Keynote speaker Dr. Danny Cohen spoke about his Unsilence Project, a non-profit that creates and delivers engaging learning experiences about hidden, marginalized, and taboo narratives of atrocity and human rights.

Shoshi Bar-Meir says, “The experience of leadership day has shown light on the obscure discrimination that even still occurs today. This knowledge has helped me realize how much I want to do to improve the world.”

Sophomore Oriya Falk says, “I learned the importance of speaking about important topics that are usually overlooked, or that are considered taboo. I also got the opportunity to hear the many opinions and perspectives of a very diverse group of teenagers.”

Miki Schreiber, ICJA parent and board member and a docent at the museum who was at the program, says, “It is very important for a Jewish high school to participate in these types of programs. In 1948, post Holocaust, when the UN declared and promised “never again” the intention was to protect all humanity from genocide…It is important to show that as a Jewish school we take that promise seriously and we will join in to preserve rights for all humanity.”

The program included a tour of the museum, group discussions and then an action plan for each school to take home. The students focused on an issue of social justice that is  important to the school they represented in order to increase tolerance in their communities.

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