Have you ever seen six million…anything? I haven’t. But like countless others, I’ve wondered what six million would look like. If someone were to say, give me six million dollars, how much space would it take up? I have no idea.
And I’m sure I never will.
You may remember that one of my (new found) heroes is a man by the name of Moshe Baran. He is on my short list of who I’d most like to have dinner with (you can read about it in “3 Dinner Guests List“). Moshe is a survivor of the Holocaust, having fought in the resistance. His entrance fee to join a partisan group in the woods? To bring a gun.
Now 92 years old, he has his own blog (!) where he inspires us to think about what we say, for he knows–all to well–the horrors hateful speech turns into.
As it turns out, he raised an amazing daughter as well. Avi is head of a Jewish Community Day school in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburg. It seems one of the teachers at her school, along with some students, wanted to see what “six million” looked like too. So they began collecting soda tabs. But then, what were they to do with them? They figured it out, and just finished the project that took eighteen years to complete.
What follows are some excerpts of the story, taken from the dedication brochure, and some great photographs of the dedication event, taken by Ruth Hendricks.
Learn And Remember…
Meet Mr. Bill Walter, an eighth grade history teacher at Community Day School, a Jewish day school in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. Teaching the Holocaust is an important part of his curriculum. His students are both intensely interested in and horrified by the history of the destructive Nazi power that seized Europe between the years 1933 and 1945. One of Mr. Walter’s greatest challenges as a teacher is to help the students grasp the enormity, the scope, and the tragedy of the government sanctioned, systematic murder of millions of people.
Twelve million victims. Six million Jews.
Count And Remember…
How can a teacher help students understand that one by one, men, women and children were dehumanized, removed from their homes and communities, tortured, abused and killed? How can a teacher inspire students to make the leap from one to six million? Mr. Walter’s challenge was to find a meaningful way to visualize six million. Beginning with the class of 1996, he encouraged his students to grasp the number, one pop-tab at a time. Could they collect six million? One by one, students, teachers, parents, and community members began collecting aluminum tabs from soda cans. Each pop-tab took on a powerful significance as students learned that each one counted.
Art Transforms History… See It And Learn… See It And Remember…
Mr. Walter’s history classroom at Community Day School began to swell with pop-tabs. One hundred… one thousand…one million…two million…three million…four million… five million…six million! The walls were lined. The floors heaved. The number came alive.
Another challenge faced Mr. Walter and the students of Community Day School: What could they do with six million pop-tabs?
Elena Hiatt Houlihan. . .Pennsylvania Arts Council, was commissioned to work with the students to create a unique design. Architect Alan Dunn and art teacher Judi Murray, assisted the artist and students in designing the sculpture and in projecting its cost.
Community Day School middle school students envisioned a Star of David made from glass blocks. They wanted a sculpture that would allow visitors to see each pop-tab. The sculpture, made up of 960 glass blocks, would stand 7 to 9 feet high and span 45 feet, creating a segmented Star of David. The Nazis twisted this symbol of Jewish identity by forcing their victims to wear it as a means of separating and condemning them. The students wanted this star to be restored to a symbol of pride.
Sunday, November 3, 2013 / 30 Heshvan 5774
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