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Virginia Holocaust Program and the Daffodil Project

The Virginia Holocaust Museum (VHM) partnered with Congregation Or Atid’s Religious School and The Daffodil Project for a special program on Sunday, November 5th.

Local Sunday Schools, including students, their parents and teachers from Congregation Or Atid, Or Ami, and other youth, including members of BBYO/AZA, participated in a private tour of the museum followed by a question and answer session with local Holocaust Survivor, Dr. Roger Loria (below)

VHM Director of Guest Services Matt Simpson (below) gave an informative age-appropriate abbreviated tour of the museum and the students were able to ask Dr. Loria questions related to his own personal journey as a Survivor and the current growth of antisemitism in the community and country that affects us all.

Sam Asher, Executive Director of the VHM, and Rabbi Sherry Grinsteiner of Congregation Or Atid, were able to add additional insight and instruction to the group.

Following the tour/discussion, the group planted 250 daffodil bulbs in the museum’s outdoor garden as a part of The Daffodil Project. (Photo at the top of the article)

The Daffodil Project is the worldwide living Holocaust memorial and an initiative of Am Yisrael Chair, a nonprofit Holocaust education and awareness organization.

The daffodils were planted in memory of the 1.5 million children who died during the Holocaust and are also in support of children who are suffering in humanitarian crises in the world today, including in the Ukraine and Israel.

Brett Schrader and Laurie Crouch of the museum staff coordinated the daffodil planting portion of the morning’s activities.  It was a powerful morning for all and met the goal to educate about the Holocaust and offer a better understanding and appreciation for who we are as Jewish people.

While the older students attended the program at the museum, the younger students at Congregation Or Atid’s religious school participated in the Daffodil Project by planting 250 daffodils in the Gan Chesed Kindness Garden outside the synagogue.

 

Morah Leah Skaist led a Blessing on beauty and Moreh Aaron Edelson led a discussion on how the daffodil has six points just as the Star of David.

A special thanks to Tomomi Rubin for providing her excellent guidance and gardening knowledge while helping the students plant the daffodils.

Once each bulb was planted, the students then turned around a popsicle stick designed with daffodils on it and words of strength and wisdom, signaling the values of the entire Jewish community.

The day was also a culmination of Congregation Or Atid’s first virtual Daffodil Dash where students registered to run, walk, bike, swim, or exercise from anywhere at any time between October 15th and November 5th.

The Daffodil Dash in Atlanta is a 5K or 1-mile run/walk, so the goal was for each participant to cover at least that distance during the 3-week virtual dash window. It raises awareness and funds for Holocaust Education and Genocide Awareness.

Proceeds from this race benefit Holocaust Education and Awareness in Richmond as well as the Daffodil Project and organizations helping children and families in remote villages in Darfur, South Sudan and Rwanda including “Kids for Kids,” “Raising South Sudan” and “Agahozo Shalom.”

A special thanks to Terry Schultz, Russell Finer, Alez Mendez-Zfass, Rachel Mollen and Zachary Mollen for their vision and dedication to this entire project.

On a glorious Sunday afternoon in November, Congregation Or Atid welcomed the Friendship Circle of Virginia (FCVA) to its community Gan Chesed Kindness Garden.

Gan Chesed strives to provide an inclusive outdoor place where people of all ages feel welcome. FCVA is a non-profit organization that aims to create an inclusive community by facilitating friendships and social opportunities for people with and without disabilities to connect through meaningful social experiences. The Friendship Circle was founded on the Jewish principle that every person has a unique purpose in this world that only they can achieve with their specific abilities and challenges.

Friendship Circle families and teen volunteers enjoyed using the sensory wall created to stimulate the senses, playing in the playground, painting kindness rocks for the Tashlich fountain, and making Be Kind signs to keep and share.

(From left) Sarah Kranz Ciment, Rabbi Sherry Grinsteiner and Amy Melnick-Scharf during the Friendship Circle of Virginia program at the Gan Chesed Kindness Garden.

 

Children also helped in the garden planting garlic bulbs for the Spring and learning about the herbs still growing.

A huge thank you goes out to all the volunteers from Congregation Or Atid and the Friendship Circle for creating a warm, inclusive afternoon bringing together friends with and without disabilities to connect through a meaningful social experiences in COA’s Gan Chsed and spreading kindness out into our community.

The Gan Chesed Kindness Garden at Congregation Or Atid is supported, in part, by a generous contribution from the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond. 

If interested in volunteering, please contact amymelnick@gmail.com.