Defining moral courage

Newburgh. Chester Academy student Ariana Azeez wins 2020 Jewish Federation of Orange County ‘Stop Hate Challenge’ essay contest for her Holocaust poem ‘The Life of a Leader, Roza Robota.’

| 16 Jul 2020 | 03:21

The Jewish Federation of Orange County has announced the winners of its 2020 “Stop Hatred Challenge,” whose theme this year was moral courage.

In addition to the traditional essay contest, the federation offered prizes this year for creative student responses. These included: posters, podcasts, electronic public service announcements (PSAs), other creative videos, children’s books, graphic novellas, songs, poems and plays.

Students were asked to choose a person or group who exemplified moral courage during the Holocaust and compare/contrast them with a contemporary group or person who exemplifies moral courage today.

In addition, students were asked to reflect on what they can do to exhibit moral courage in their own lives.

Teachers overseeing students received a stipend for their efforts.

Winner in the High School Category was Washingtonville High School 12th grader Connor Bankas for a song entitled “White Rose.”

Winner in the 8th Grade category was Ariana Azeez of Chester Academy, whose teacher was Stephanie Steiler. Her entry was a Holocaust poem entitled “ The Life of a Leader, Roza Robota.”

According to the Jewish Women’s Archive: Roza Robota was “a member of the Jewish underground in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and one of the organizers of an operation to smuggle explosives for use by members of the Sonderkommando (Jewish forced-labor unit of concentration camp prisoners) in the October 7, 1944 revolt at the camp.”

Here is Ariana’s poem.

The Life of a Leader, Roza Robota
By Ariana Azeez
A leader, a fighter, a persevering figure.
A strong woman,
Who died wanting her actions,
To carry on in the future.
At first a prisoner,
Then part of a clothing kommando,
Later, founder of the rebel group,
And in her last days, a prisoner.
The ups and downs of Robota’s life,
Shaped the person she grew to be.
She lost her family,
So she created a group,
She met new people,
And worked to get to where she was,
But was caught and taken,
For doing nothing but pursuing her goals.
“We must carry on” were her last words.
She wanted her actions to continue.
She wanted justice, she wanted to continue her life,
But it ended in a cell.
She died knowing she would go down in history.
Today, Moral courage is exemplified by doctors.
They work,
To save people,
Despite the fact that they are in,
Grave danger.
They work to save others’ lives,
And put their patients before themselves.
Despite the fact that by helping people,
Through this difficult time,
They are endangering themselves and their families.
Moral courage,
A trait that brave and strong people wear proudly.
The ability to go against your personal beliefs,
Even when you feel strongly about something.
The ability to make a selfless decision,
And help others in need.
A trait that I can possess,
By keeping my distance from others now,
So that this disease will stop spreading,
Even though I may be wanting some fresh air,
Keeping your distance is the only thing I can do right now,
At this very moment,
Without endangering myself and others.
Moral courage,
Is the key to a peaceful and united nation.
The key to a well regulating world,
The key to success.