Class of 2021: The Last Album: Eyes From the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau

This year’s 8th-grade interdisciplinary project combines the Holocaust with art — specifically photography. Our artist-in-residence, Ann Weiss, tells the story of what happened when she becomes separated from her group on a visit to Auschwitz. She walked into a building and a guard asked a seemingly innocuous question: “Do you want to see something?” This simple question changed the course of Ann’s life.
The guard revealed previously unseen family albums that were not incinerated in a crematorium designed specifically to destroy photos in Auschwitz. Weiss was determined that these unknown artifacts of Jewish history had to be shared with the world. Eventually, the Polish government allowed her to see the photos again and, much later, to copy and publish them.
Since the pictures have become public, Weiss has worked tirelessly to show them to as many people as possible, and especially to people who may have a chance of recognizing some of the subjects. As a result, around 750 have been identified.
This year, students will work to print copies of these photos and ask them to employ the skills learned from Ann Weiss and our middle school art instructor Gili Sherman to create a virtual museum about the lives of these survivors many of whom are now deceased. Students will research the lives of these Survivors by speaking with family members and they will gather photos of their lives beyond their Holocaust experiences.

Class of 2020: The Madness of Hope: The Hope of Madness

This short documentary film is a collaboration between professional filmmaker Ryan Ferguson and five 8th grade student filmmakers from Chicago's Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School as part of a year-long, multi-disciplinary project around the life, work and teachings of Elie Wiesel.
Along with students and staff of Bernard Zell, the film features Rabbi Dr. Ariel Burger, a protege of Wiesel, author of Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel's Classroom, and founder of The Witness Institute.
This project was made possible through funding by the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge and The Kronhill Pletka Foundation.

Class of 2019: The Resistance Project

Each year, Bernard Zell 8th graders integrate art, history, reading, writing and technology in a unique and eye-opening year-long project. Under the leadership of Dr. Jeff Ellison, Artist-in-Residence, Ken Krimstein, and the entire 8th-grade faculty, the class of 2019 authored and illustrated their own graphic novel describing the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from a unique perspective. 
Click play below to learn more about The Resistance Project, the story of Mark Edelman, a resistance fighter in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and a heroic figure to both Jews and non-Jewish Poles.

Class of 2018: Train

Take a look back at the Class of 2018's interdisciplinary learning of their multi-faceted exploration of the novel Train by Dr. Danny M. Cohen, author and Bernard Zell parent.
As part of this project, the class also performed an original play inspired byTrain. This riveting play is a culmination of the students’ yearlong interdisciplinary study of Train which incorporated the creation of a website and study guide, intergenerational book club and multiple visual arts projects.
Students, working with playwright Wilfredo Ramos and director Matt Farabee from Northlight Theatre, have created a moving performance that takes place in 22nd-century America, where it is forbidden to talk about history.

In The Keepersthese young historians must find a way to raise public consciousness of the histories that are being suppressed without falling into the hands of the “Silencers” who are ever on the watch for subversives seeking to bring to light truths that complicate how Americans perceive the past and present. In the midst of telling these histories, these student performers test their own power to exhibit empathy, the insights and limitations offered by their individual perspectives, and their ability to shape how stories are told in the future.