By Dan Shufelt
There is a hallowed, revered residence in Amsterdam – it is the Anne Frank House. The museum of today stands where the Frank family went into hiding from the Nazis in July, 1942. It’s unfathomable to me to think of the hate that would cause human beings to hunt down and exterminate our brothers and sisters, but the story of Anne Frank is one that should never be forgotten and should be shared with younger generations in hopes that history will never repeat itself.
On July 9, Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation to ensure that the next generation of Arizonans learns about the horrors of the Holocaust, and the more than six million lives lost at the hands of evil. In a press release about the Holocaust Education Bill, Governor Ducey said, “This bill works to educate our youth on the atrocities of the Holocaust and other genocides. Tragedies like this must never be allowed to happen again.” I couldn’t agree more, and support efforts to make this history lesson one that youth of today and generations to come can learn from.
That is exactly the purpose of the Jewish Ensemble Theater (JET). For the past 27 years, JET has partnered with the Detroit Institute of Arts to produce the “Diary of Anne Frank” for student audiences. Middle school educators are also provided with a curriculum to share with their 6th, 7th and 8th grade students about Anne Frank’s story and the life of terror she lived for almost two years in that hiding place in Amsterdam.
It is vital to share this story and to teach our children how valuable all lives are. In this day of division and controversy, the message that we are all human beings, worthy of respect, love and dignity is one that needs to be spread far and wide.
Middle school students attending the performances reflect on the fact that Anne Frank was just 13 years old when she went into hiding and spent almost two years secreted away in the annex. A 15-year-old girl dying from exhaustion in a Nazi concentration camp leaves an indelible impression on any youngster.
We are so fortunate that a group of Arizona leaders have now brought this program to the metro Phoenix area. In 2019, pre-pandemic, 4,500 area students attended the first national tour of the play. The emotion and interest in the question-and-answer period following the performance was indicative of the lesson these boys and girls learned, most hearing the saga for the first time.
With students returning to in-person learning, plans are now in place to perform the Diary of Anne Frank on stage at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts from January 31 to February 11, 2022. More than 8,000 middle school students will have an opportunity to experience the depth of emotion, and hopefully, to learn from the horrific history. We can only hope that by doing so, these youngsters will learn compassion and love for their peers, regardless of race, ethnicity or religious background.
According to the JET website; “Bigotry, racism, discrimination and prejudice in society is intolerable, which is why JET has worked for 31 years to educate our youth and engage our audiences in these vital issues.” Thank you to Len and Phyllis Miller, Sally Ginn, and JET for sharing this play with Arizona youth. They are our future, and I can think of no more important lesson for them to learn.
If you are interested in supporting this production, please contact Len Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Shufelt, the former CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, has been involved in the charity world as an executive and grantmaker for many years. If you enjoy learning about caring people and the amazing work they devote their energy to advance, sign up to receive Dan’s blog posts at www.givingback-movingforward.com.