26/01/2023 - Permalink

Bridgnorth schoolpupils to help mark Holocaust Memorial Day tomorrow

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As part of activities planned in Shropshire to mark the Holocaust and other genocides, schoolpupils from St Leonard’s CE Primary School, Bridgnorth and St John’s Catholic Primary School, Bridgnorth will be planting a cherry tree at their schools to mark Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) tomorrow morning (Friday 27 January 2023).

These cherry trees will add to the orchard of remembrance that is gradually being grown across Shropshire, following on from the tree planted at Sheriffhales Primary School in 2022.

Shropshire Council has worked with South Shropshire Interfaith Forum and Shrewsbury Interfaith Forum to organise ceremonies with the two Bridgnorth schools, in which Kirstie Hurst-Knight and Christian Lea, the local Shropshire Councillors for Bridgnorth East and Astley Abbotts, will represent the council and share the national HMD theme for this year, which is ‘Ordinary People’.

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27 January each year and is a time to remember the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust under Nazi persecution, and in the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Additionally, the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum are holding a commemorative service on Sunday 29 January 2023 at 5pm at the United Reform Church in Church Stretton, to which all are invited.

In further activity tomorrow, Shropshire Libraries will be showing the HMD film about the theme Ordinary People in the foyers at Shrewsbury Library and in Ludlow Library. Shropshire Archives have produced a blog sharing information about the Jews in medieval times here in Shropshire, which can be found here, and which highlights that Jews were driven out of Bridgnorth as part of national persecution of them at that time.

There is a free poetry reading from 12.30pm to 1.30pm tomorrow at Shrewsbury Abbey, as well as a public event by Telford and Wrekin Council at 11am at Telford Minster. Please see further details below on the range of externally-organised activities and events of which the council is aware.

Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for adult social care, public health and communities, said:-

“I am heartened at the range of events being organised by ourselves and by others this year to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. In so doing, we may all seek to ensure that the Holocaust and other genocides are never forgotten, and to continue to send a visible and powerful message of our collective stance against anti-Semitism and any other forms of discrimination.

“I would like to also encourage local people to light a candle to place safely in their windows at home at 4pm tomorrow, to send a further visible message, alongside the memorial cherry trees that we plant with children in Shropshire.”

Kirstie Hurst-Knight, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for children and education, added:-

“In making the decision as a council on location of cherry trees for 2023, we have been guided by wishing to take further positive action here in Bridgnorth, following a distressing incident of anti-Semitic graffiti found in a public green space area of Bridgnorth town centre in November 2022.

“I and other Bridgnorth councillors were appalled, and also very conscious that local primary schoolpupils may have come across this graffiti before it was spotted and removed, and not been fully aware that it is a hate crime, and the reasons why it is so abhorrent. 

“We will be highlighting that the graffiti could have come from people passing through the area rather than local residents, a point that we made in our Newsroom story at the time: this is more about raising awareness that such incidents may occur anywhere, and will never be tolerated.”

Further information

Shropshire cherry trees orchard

The trees will be planted in St Leonard’s CE Primary School and St John’s Catholic Primary School, in the electoral division of Kirstie Hurst-Knight, who is also Cabinet member for children and education. In so doing, we are demonstrating commitment by all our councillors to the importance of raising awareness amongst primary school age children about the Holocaust and other genocides. The ceremonies will take place at St Leonard’s from 9.30am to 10.20am, and at St John’s from 11am to 11.45am.

Here in Shropshire we find a different primary school each year, in different parts of our large rural county, at which to plant a cherry tree to commemorate the Holocaust and other genocides. The aim is to help primary schoolpupils to learn about the Holocaust in a way that will be age-appropriate and memorable.

We hold a ceremony with the two interfaith forums, South Shropshire Interfaith Forum and Shrewsbury Interfaith Forum, the school itself, and the local Shropshire Councillors, in which we think about the theme for the year, and say prayers and light candles, and in which the school make a promise to look after their tree.

The ceremonies will involve the inter faith forum leads and the councillors in a school assembly, including the lighting of a candle; followed by the planting of the tree with a smaller group of children outside, again supported by the interfaith forums and by the councillors. At St Leonard’s, the grouping will be children who are on their Worship Council; and at St John’s, the grouping will be children who are Faith Council representatives.

As well as sourcing the trees through kind support from Shropshire Council’s arboriculturist team, John Blessington from the team is helping with practicalities, including guidance on looking after the trees as they grow alongside the children of the schools involved.

They are Black Oliver flowering cherries, a variety native to the West Midlands, chosen to link in with the importance of fruiting trees in Judaism, Islam and Christianity, and to illustrate our wish to show welcome for different faiths within our local area.

Other Holocaust Memorial Day activities

Film showings

The “Ordinary People” film by the HMD Trust will be showing with subtitles throughout the day in the library foyers at Shrewsbury Library and at Ludlow Library, from 9.30am-5pm, with a display of books and posters.

  • Ludlow Library, 7 Parkway, Ludlow, SY8 2PG
  • Shrewsbury Library, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury, SY1 2AS

Poetry reading

The poetry reading event is in Shrewsbury Abbey, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury, SY2 6BS, on 27 January 2023. It starts at 12.30pm and finishes at 1.30pm. The event is free, and everyone is welcome.

The commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust, through this event in Shrewsbury, will comprise a reading by Jean Boase-Beier of Holocaust poems translated from many different languages.

Each poem will be briefly introduced and set in context.

Jean Boase-Beier said:-

“In this way we can hear the voices of those the Nazis thought they had silenced. We will also hear poems by those who foresaw the catastrophe, and those who reflected on it later, all of them ordinary people whose poems help us to relate to these terrible events today, and to reflect on them.”

Telford and Wrekin Council’s public event

Telford & Wrekin Council will be holding a ceremony at Telford Minster, on Friday 27 January, at 11am.

The event includes reflection from guest speakers, including retired local GP and direct descendant of a Holocaust survivor Dr Eve Clevenger, as well as a candle lighting ceremony and a minute’s silence.

Other speakers include Telford & Wrekin Council chief executive David Sidaway, Mayor Raj Mehta, and Councillor Kelly Middleton, cabinet member for leisure, public health and wellbeing, equalities and partnerships.

At: Telford Minster, Meeting Point House, Southwater Square, Telford TF3 4HS

Further details

For details of other activities and resources, please see the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website at www.hmd.org.uk

Holocaust Memorial Day is a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own – it’s a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented. We’re fortunate here in the UK; we are not at immediate risk of genocide. However, discrimination has not ended, nor has the use of the language of hatred or exclusion. There is still much to do to create a safer future and HMD is an opportunity to start this process.

HMD activity organisers bring together the diverse strands of their communities to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day in their neighbourhoods. This is a real demonstration of how the lessons of the past can inform our lives today and ensure that everyone works together to create a safer, better future.