This week, South Orangetown Middle School marked a new step in its expansion of The Butterfly Project, an initiative which educates students about the Holocaust and promotes respect and tolerance. The effort was spearheaded by eight SOMS students in Spring 2017 who were inspired by NOT The Last Butterfly, a documentary shown at the JCC Rockland Film Festival about The Butterfly Project, a nonprofit that uses the lessons of the Holocaust to cultivate empathy and social responsibility through art-making.
In a brief April 11 ceremony in the SOMS lobby, The Butterfly Project student leaders and Principal Dr. Tesik unveiled three large butterfly-shaped panels, each covered with ceramic butterflies painted by students last year to memorialize the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust. Present for the unveiling were The Butterfly Project Co-Founder and Executive Director Ms. Cheryl Rattner Price, JCC Rockland Film Festival Chair Emeritus Ms. Micki Leader and committee members Mr. Dan Lehrfeld and Mrs. Lynn Lehrfeld, Board of Education President Mrs. Rosemary Pitruzzella, Superintendent Dr. Robert Pritchard, and art teachers Ms. Tatiana DiPierno and Ms. Allison Meyers.
Following the ceremony, Ms. Price screened NOT The Last Butterfly with seventh-graders and spoke with sixth-grade students, who painted ceramic butterflies after listening to Pavel Friedmann’s poem, The Butterfly, and reading short biographies about children who died during the Holocaust. “The Butterfly Project is a reminder to remember the past, act responsibly in the present and work for a peaceful future,” said Ms. Price. “You have an opportunity to change or enhance the culture of this school.”
“The Butterfly Project allows our students to reflect on their responsibility to be respectful, kind and empathetic towards others by learning from history,” said Dr. Tesik. “The fact that students led this initiative also confirms to this community that our students are developing leadership skills that will continue to have a positive influence here on campus and in our South Orangetown community. I am extremely proud of our students and faculty!”