Nationwide classroom screenings of ‘Schindler’s List’ launch difficult discussions amid uptick of hate crimes

NEW YORK — For 15-year-old Lavon Sykes, history class was literally a theatrical event.

On Tuesday, the sophomore at East Side Community High School in Manhattan, along with hundreds of other students across the Tri-state area, are blowing off the traditional classroom setting for the movie theater, taking in the historical period film Schindler’s List.

It’s all part of an effort to raise awareness to the parallels of 1939 Germany and the recent wave of anti-semitism and hate on the rise across the country.

"It makes me feel like we are digressing as a society," Sykes told PIX11 News. "We are losing sight of what really is supposed to matter."

The screening - one of many happening nationwide - is part of a larger initiative spearheaded by the non-profit organization Facing History and Ourselves - a group that develops educational material on injustices in American and European society.

"We are arming teachers and educators around the world with these lessons so they could have these really important conversations," said Pam Haas, Executive Director of Facing History and Ourselves. "Also to get their students to understand what is similar to the past but also what is different."

While the conversations may be difficult to have, the goal according to teachers like Elizabeth Pino, is to help students navigate their way through their own history

"I think the biggest lesson is we all make choices and those choices are what make history," Pino said. "So to really be thoughtful and reflective of their actions and the roles that they play."

Citing a recent study that found that two-thirds of millennials did not know what Auschwitz was, Haas insists, time is of the essence.

"We have to teach kids that this kind of thinking is obviously very dangerous - you need to teach the facts," she said.