OJAI : Movie Offers Youths Lesson on Holocaust

About 25 Ojai high school students spent a sunny spring break afternoon Wednesday in a darkened theater for a glimpse into the history of the Holocaust at a special no-cost screening of Steven Spielberg's award-winning film, "Schindler's List."

Although three Ojai youths walked out of the Ojai Playhouse at the end of the 3 1/2-hour film complaining that "there wasn't enough action," six teen-agers stayed an extra hour to participate in a discussion of the Holocaust.

"I came because I wanted to know more about the Holocaust," said K. C. Murphy, a sophomore at Nordhoff High School. "I stayed for the discussion because I wanted to know even more about it."

Nordhoff senior Shannon Gulden agreed.

"I just thought I should see it," she said. "All we learn in school is the numbers--6 million dead. We never hear stories about Jews. I think it's important for everyone to learn at a personal level."

The movie was provided at no cost to the students by theater owner Khaled Alawar, who wanted to educate Ojai Valley youths about the extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II.

"I felt very strongly that it is a movie that everybody should see so we're all aware of something that happened in history," Alawar said.

Wednesday's screening was not part of the Schindler's List Project, which offers free screenings to high school students in 37 California school districts, including Simi Valley Unified School District.

Simi Valley High School students will see the film later this month, said district Assistant Supt. Susan Parks.

High schools students in Oakland made newspaper headlines in January when they laughed during a scene in the film and were ejected from the theater. The event touched off a campaign to educate youths about the Holocaust.

Last year, a Roper poll found only half of American high school students knew what the word Holocaust means.

Ojai resident Adelle Chabelski, vice president of Second Generation, a Los Angeles County-based organization for children of Holocaust survivors, asked Alawar in December about providing a screening of "Schindler's List" to educate local students.

"How do we translate the lessons (of the Holocaust)?" Chabelski asked. "Well, Spielberg organized the material by doing it through the story of Oskar Schindler. He also gave us the hope that one man could stand up to a system."

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