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High school student gains insights into indifference

Lorelai Taylor

Lorelai Taylor, who wrote the first-prize 2023 Yom Hashoah essay for high school students, will read her essay on "The Danger of Indifference" at the Community Observance of the Holocaust at 7 p.m., Monday, May 6, at Temple Beth Shalom, 1322 E. 30th Ave.

In her essay, she wrote about reviewing historical sources and finding that portions of the U.S. government were indifferent to the events in Europe leading up to and during the Holocaust.

"Indifference, the killer of humanity, is what brings humiliation upon us today. Select individuals and departments in the U.S. government knowingly prevented the immigration of Jewish refugees during World War II and prevented information about the persecution of Jews from reaching the people," she wrote. "In an attempt to keep protests and uprisings in the U.S. at bay, the government contributed to the deaths of thousands of Jews by not taking action during World War II."

Lorelai, who grew up in East Valley schools and is a junior at East Valley High School, wrote the essay as part of the Advanced Placement European history class she was taking. Her teacher, Lori Jacobson, told students about the contest during the Holocaust unit.

"I found it interesting, especially the prompt of looking into what was happening in the U.S. during the Holocaust, because we had not studied that," she said.

Lorelai said she experienced an "aha" moment when reading the essay prompt about the indifference the U.S. showed in the Holocaust.

"I was not aware of the indifference before and it was shocking that people were indifferent," she said. "I had not taken into consideration the beliefs and trends in those times that may have led people to be indifferent.

"I don't justify it, but I understand how being antisemitic was reflected in the actions," she said.

Lorelai, who is in the National Honor Society, Modern Music Masters Honor Society, Knowledge Bowl competitions, History Bowl and Future Business Leaders of America, believes it's important to look at different sides of what happened to find the truth and the historic facts.

"The U.S. State Department hid things and blindsided people about what was happening," she said, aware that it came from prejudice and was wrong.

"I tried to understand and be aware, because even though we can't change what happened, we can learn from their mistakes," she observed.

"I learned we need to acknowledge that indifference is still shown as people look away from problems," she said. "It's a natural impulse to want to take the easy way. That's why we need to actively combat indifference in the world and in our daily lives."

Lorelai sees indifference in her school related to prejudice against the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.

"We need to acknowledge them as people needing to be treated equally, not judged," she continued. "To fight indifference, we need to recognize the need to treat people equally even though we may not agree with them."

Lorelai said it's important to be able to recognize prejudice when it happens.

"After I wrote the essay, I became more aware of indifference," said Lorelai.

Having never attended a Yom Hashoah service or been to the synagogue in Spokane, she said writing the essay opened her eyes and made her aware of the Jewish community here.

From listening to people on the student leadership board with the Holocaust Center for Humanity, she realizes a goal of the essay contest is to educate area students about the dynamics of prejudice and the progression of hate.

Lorelai believes it's important to recognize how small acts of hate, antisemitism and racism can grow and affect people.

"I appreciated that Jewish members shared their experiences of what it was like to be Jewish and what it is like to be Jewish now," she said. "My eyes have been opened to the amount of antisemitism today. I am morally opposed to antisemitism and sad it is still a big issue and has an impact."

Lorelai feels more aware of what is going on around her for minority groups.

Outside of school, she and her family have volunteered with veterans through the Red Cross. High school activities and sports have reduced her time for that, but she has appreciated the contacts.

"We have brought cupcakes, played bingo and made holiday visits with veterans at the Post Falls VA Home and the VA Home in Spokane. We listen to stories of their lives and childhood. Some have told us about how they were injured," said Lorelai, whose goal is to work in medicine.

"I strive to educate myself more on world events," she said.

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, April 2024