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Cecil Rosner, Erin Minuk, and Belle Millo
Jewish Foundation of Manitoba


by Rhonda Spivak, September 27, 2011

 Erin Minuk,  daughter of Pam and Earl Minuk, a grade 12 student at the Gray Academy of Jewish Education is this year’s winner of the  Mina Rosner Human Rights Award Competition. The late Mina Rosner, who was born in Buchach, (now in the Ukraine) was the sole survivor of her family during the Holocaust and moved to Winnipeg in 1948.

After the war, Mina Rosner dedicated her life to educating people about the Holocaust and devoted herself to speaking to students about the importance of combating racism and defending human rights.
As Belle Millo, chairperson of the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre, who introduced the award explained “She [Mina Rosner] recorded her war-time experiences in her book I am a Witness. In 1990, she returned to Buchach for the first time since the war, and the visit was captured in an award winning CBC documentary called Return to Buchach,” said Millo.
After her passing in 1997, Mina Rosner’s friends and family decided to honour her memory and keep her legacy alive by creating “The Mina Rosner Memorial Fund” at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. The $400 prize is awarded annually to a Manitoba high school student whose essay is chosen as the best on the theme of the Holocaust or another other important human rights issue.
Minuk has volunteered at the Shaarey Zedekminyans since 2006, has travelled to Israel three times, including her participation on last year’s March of the Living. She has had lead roles in two Gray Academy school musicals was chosen this year as the regional Nesi’ah or President of B’nai Brith Girls. She has also been the recipient of the Fern Shawna Rykiss literary award at the Gray Academy.
Cecil Rosner, son of the late Mina Rosner to present the award to Erin Minuk and spoke of how in her essay, Erin speaks of the need for having the courage to be the person who steps forward to offer help, and not be a bystander. He said he particularly liked the metaphor she uses in her essay of “lighting the match" that each of us have with ourselves to find that courage.
Below is the winning essay:
Lighting the Match Within   by Erin Minuk
“First they came for the communists
And I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist? Then they came for the Jews
And I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew
Then they came for me?
And there was no one left to speak out for me.”
- Martin Niemoller
By definition, a bystander is “a person who is present, but not involved.” We have all played this role in our lives. It is the safe spot between the victim and the perpetrator. However, that middle ground that so many stand on, is equal to being the perpetrator. Many believe by standing idly by, they are doing nothing wrong. This is where people become confused. What is truly wrong is the fact that they are doing nothing.
In 1964 in Queens, New York, Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered on the street just outside of her apartment. In the half hour it took for the man to stalk, and ultimately kill Kitty Genovese, thirty-eight people witnessed some aspect of the murder. However, it was not until she was already stabbed to death that someone thought to phone for help. Hearing the cries for help, seeing a neighbor being brutally attacked, you would like to think you would help. But would you have?
This is called the bystander effect. It seems that the more people present, the less likely anyone is to help a person in distress. This is because of two main factors. The first reason is Diffusion of Responsibility, in which people do not feel pressured to help out because they feel the responsibility is distributed among all those present. The second factor is the need to behave in proper and socially acceptable ways. When the surrounding people fail to react, this can be taken as a signal that help is not needed, or an appropriate response at this time.
Many people want to change the world. Few people actually change the world. What separates those who want from those who create is courage. Courage is the power to speak up for what is morally, ethically, religiously, and emotionally right. Courage is being the change you wish to see in the world. Just a mere two syllables, could change a person, who could change a community, that could then, change the world. Simple? No one said it was, but all great things take time.
You are probably thinking to yourself, who am I? What have I been through to have the right to tell you who to be, and how to act? You a
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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