400 students from nine school districts throughout Ocean County participated in the first ever Ocean Student Leadership Conference where the focus of the gathering was “Heroes and Rescuers.”
The event was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Ocean County and the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission with funds provided by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the NJ Historical Commission.
The program was presented by Chhange, the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Education and hosted by Ocean County College at the Grunin Center for the Arts.
According to Annabel Lindenbaum, Board Chair of the Federation: “When we embarked on our effort to combat hate in Ocean County, we didn’t realize that we would have so many great examples to refer to on a regular basis, most recently Kanye West and the extremist who attacked Nancy Pelosi’s husband.”
The featured speaker was Pastor Chris Edmunds. Pastor Edmonds tells the story of his dad, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, who saved the lives of 200 Jewish prisoners of war in Germany. The camp commandant ordered him to identify the Jews among the 1200 in a prisoner of war camp where he was the highest ranking officer.
His response: “We are all Jews here.” And when ordered to have all the Jewish American prisoners fall out, instead everyone fell out.
According to Pastor Edmonds, he calculated that thanks to his father’s actions standing up for his fellow servicemen, there are now 13,000 people alive today.
The theme of how everyone can be an “upstander” was the key takeaway of this conference.
As stressed by the Ocean County Prosecutor, Bradley D. Billhimer, who also participated, we shouldn’t stand idly by when someone else is victimized.
Other speakers included Dr. Henry Jackson of Ocean County College, Howard Dorman of
Chhange, and Annabel Lindenbaum from the Jewish Federation. All stressed how this is particularly important today, especially among students and young people, as antisemitism and other forms of hate proliferate in our society.