A city author intimately acquainted with racially-motivated hate talked about tolerance Tuesday with Edmond North High School students.

Mike Korenblit is the co-author of “Until We Meet Again,” the true story of his Jewish parents, Manya and Meyer Korenblit, Holocaust survivors.

Korenblit speaks to students throughout the country about the lessons of the Holocaust and how they relate to contemporary issues such as bigotry, genocide and intolerance.

The “Respect Diversity” program was another step in the high school’s effort to encourage its students to embrace the virtues of respect and tolerance, said Principal Ed Story.

“It is important that our students understand the bigger societal picture,” Story said. “We get so caught up in our personal lives that sometimes we fail to understand the needs of others.”

Story said students must be reminded from time to time that tolerance and understanding of others lies at the core of America’s democratic values. Youth by its nature innately possess these values, he said.

It is the responsibility of adults to nurture and further this belief system, Story said.

During World War II, Korenblit’s parents lived in Nazi-occupied Poland. They were taken prisoner in 1942, separated and moved from camp to camp.

They had agreed to meet in their hometown if they became separated.

Korenblit said he experienced racially-motivated hate as he was growing up in Ponca City. When he was 11 years old his father took him to a park, had him take a drink and showed him the “Whites Only” sign above the water fountain.

Young Korenblit drank from another fountain nearby. Above it a sign said “Coloreds Only.”

His father said he doesn’t have a lot of relatives because of bigotry.

Also in Ponca City, Korenblit said he was accused of being a “Christ killer” because he and other Jews were somehow responsible for killing Christ.

Korenblit listed various religious faiths likely represented in the audience and said it is important for individuals to be respected.

Since the Holocaust, during which an estimated 6 million Jews and 8 million others were murdered by the Nazis, political leaders vowed “never again,” Korenblit said.

Yet genocide remains a reality in places like Rwanda, Cambodia and currently Sudan.

Korenblit mentioned the Oklahoma City bombing.

“On April 19, 1995, 168 innocent men, women and children are murdered out of hatred and bigotry in our home city by Timothy McVeigh,” he said.

He also cited the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy. Later it was learned that before the shooting the killers had been bullied.

Before April 1995, there was one “hate” site on the Internet, Korenblit said.

Today, there are more than 2,000 such sites.

“That’s what exists. That’s why it’s important for you all to be in this room,” Korenblit said.

A more recent example, Korenblit gave, were the racially-motivated threats against students at North High School last fall.

“You all have a responsibility,” Korenblit said. “You have a responsibility to each other, to your families, to your community.”

Korenblit said individuals representing numerous faiths were in the auditorium. Each individual deserves respect for who they are and for what they are, he said.

“It’s time for each of us to start looking at who a person is inside, not what they are on the outside,” Korenblit said.

(Education reporter Mark Schlachtenhaufen may be reached via e-mail at ms@edmondsun.com)

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