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Documentary on 'Teaching the Holocaust' by South Elgin High School Students Wins Prize

Nov. 9, 2023 

A documentary filmed and edited by students from the Beacon Magnet Academy of Media and Digital Arts at South Elgin High School, called “Teaching the Holocaust: Beyond Facts and Figures,” won the grand prize in the “Best Documentary Short” category at the 2023 Silicon Beach Film Festival.

students on stage The documentary is centered around a series of activities that SEHS students and teachers engaged in last January. Student actors did table readings of a non-fiction theater project called “The Thin Edge of the Wedge,” written by Elgin High School graduate Phyllis Zimbler Miller. It was presented at Congregation Kneseth Israel in Elgin as well as part of a professional development program for history and social studies teachers. The students also visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum, an emotional trip captured in the documentary.  

The film was produced by Miller, Beacon Academy teacher Brian Erlich, and Jacob Vandemoortel, Coordinator of K-12 Social Studies and World Languages for U-46. Miller created her play based on first-hand accounts she published, and interviews she conducted, while working as a reporter and editor for the Jewish Exponent, an English-language weekly newspaper in Philadelphia in the 1970s.

Vandemoortel said SEHS’s relationship with Miller and her play has led to U-46 being a partner with the Gail Borden Public Library’s Violins of Hope exhibit, which showcased instruments played before or during the Holocaust, and plans for a joint kickoff event in January 2024 to mark the International Holocaust Day of Remembrance and Black History Month. 

"This project has been remarkable from the start. There have been so many incredible pieces that have come from it,” he said. “I'm so proud of everything we've accomplished so far and excited about the work we are still doing!"

The documentary is available to watch on YouTube as well as on the “Shorts Daily” channel on Roku, a streaming video player. About 24 SEHS students participated in the project, either as actors or as part of the film crew.