Shards of Broken Glass

This past November, the world Jewish community commemorated the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. The significance of this event has always been remembered by SAR students through our experiential educational programming.

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My earliest memory of being moved to both chills and tears occurred within the walls of SAR on November 8, 1987. I was 12 years old, standing on what we referred to in those days as “the mezzanine,” the area of the school located just outside the Teachers’ Room. A guest speaker, I wish I could remember who, gave an emotional depiction of the night of Kristallnacht as he described it in vivid detail. Suddenly, the sound of glass crashing and breaking jolted me, along with the rest of the audience. Someone had taken a reddish-orange piece of stained glass and shattered it deliberately.

As I look back as an adult, I wonder how they contained the pieces, or why this wasn’t considered dangerous. But as a seventh grader, I remember my emotional response - tears turning to chills. Afterward, the tone of the speech changed to one of hope and inspiration, as each person in the audience was given a shard of the broken glass to glue onto a canvas within the outline of the words “Am Yisrael Chai.” The resulting work of art continues to adorn the walls of the school more than 30 years later.
— Lisi (Benovitz) Mandel AC '89, Faculty and Current Parent


One of the most moving and inspiring events that ever took place in our school was the 50th Anniversary commemoration of Kristallnacht.

A grandmother of one of our students had lived through the Holocaust, kept a diary and a significant photo album. She was an outstanding speaker and had been invited by the German government to come back to her hometown and tell her story to high school students and a movie was made of her life during the Holocaust. We asked her to speak to our 7th and 8th Grade students and parents during the evening commemoration.

At an administration meeting, we thought that in addition to the speaker and the Q&A period, we should have some kind of ceremony. A discussion took place among the administrators which went something like this:

  • why don’t we break glass?

  • no, that is too horrible and traumatic.

  • but we do it at a wedding.

  • yes, but at a wedding you’re at a high and it’s to bring you down. Today, we are way down and we want to come up a bit.

  • so why don’t we put glass together?

As a result of this discussion, a gentleman whose hobby was working with stained glass was called in and told about the commemoration and the aforementioned discussion. He asked to be given a few days to think about the idea to come up with a conclusion.

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