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Holocaust Survivor Visiting John Jay Students Following Swastika Vandalism

Katonah-Lewisboro residents at a workshop held in response to a spate of swastika vandalism incidents.
Katonah-Lewisboro residents at a workshop held in response to a spate of swastika vandalism incidents. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. -- The Katonah-Lewisboro School District announced that Holocaust survivor Judith Altmann will visit John Jay High School students on Thursday and Friday. The visits come as the community is grappling with the fallout of multiple vandalism incidents involving swastikas.

Altmann, according to the district, was born in 1924 and was forced into several concentration camps, including at Auschwitz, Gelsenkirchen and Essen.

"She survived the death march that ended in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp," the district added. "Sick with typhus, Judy was barely alive when she was liberated by the British Army in 1945."

Altmann, who was invited by the school's Campus Congress, will meet with juniors and seniors on Thursday, and with freshmen and sophomores on Friday.

“I heard Mrs. Altmann speak when my AP European History class went to a Holocaust workshop in New Rochelle,” Campus Congress Speaker Simrit Uppal said in a statement provided by the district. “Everyone was so amazed by her and her message.”

Altmann's visit is the latest initiative from the district. This past Thursday, roughly 100 community members attended a discussion and workshop at the high school, which was overseen by Schools Superintendent Andrew Selesnick. The workshop, which included parents and local elected officials, included heated discussions at times over how to respond to incidents like the recent ones.

The spate of vandalisms began over the holiday break in late December when swastikas were found painted onto playground equipment at the shuttered Lewisboro Elementary School. Over the course of January and early February, swastikas were found carved into a tree on the John Jay campus, in a library bathroom at the high school and on a district bus that is used for private-school transportation.

Local students are suspects in the December incident, but Selesnick said at the Thursday workshop that no suspects have been found for the subsequent incidents.

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