Areen Syed '24 said she got her first serious understanding of genocide during sixth grade at Norfolk Academy, when she studied World War II in social studies and read a book about the Holocaust for language arts. She also did a “Globetrotter" current events report about the brutal treatment of the Rohingya Muslims, a group whose persecution in the Buddhist-majority nation of Myanmar has drawn the attention of human rights groups and reporters around the world.
That report, in particular, seared in her mind the reality that genocides have happened after the Holocaust, during which an estimated 6 million Jews died through the Nazi-organized program of destruction. She wanted to do more to promote peace, so she started in her home community, joining the Middle School's CARE Club and doing work on the Season for Nonviolence.
Now, Areen's work will have a broader scope, as she was selected as one of just 20 young people from across the world for a fellowship from Together We Remember, a nonprofit founded by the grandson of four Holocaust survivors. It strives to raise awareness of violence against minority groups in the United States and around the globe, working in conjunction with several Holocaust museums and organizations, including the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.
Areen, who said CARE Club faculty advisor Mrs. Jennifer Rodgers encouraged her to apply, said she was excited by the first Zoom meeting of the youth fellows, who range in age from 14 (she's one of the youngest) to 25. “It was a really powerful thing," she said. “It was cool meeting everyone...to talk to so many people who think like me. It's like a room full of best friends."
Since the TWR Fellowship is just beginning, she's not sure of the full scope of activity for the year, although they will be actively involved in Genocide Awareness Month in April, a growing and coordinated effort that includes vigils and social media campaigns to counter identity-based violence and, as the TWR organization says, “make meaningful progress toward a world of 'Never Again.'"
Areen said she's excited to get started, learn more, and share what she learns with others.
To learn more:
Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater