In 2007, the Year 4 Hebrew-English bilingual class at Bialik College, along with their teachers Dalia Gurfinkel and Soni Levenson, visioned a commemoration of the children murdered in the Holocaust as a collection of buttons. “Buttons,” they said, “like children, come in many different shapes, sizes and colours. Buttons hold a garment together and children hold a family together”. They set a goal of collecting 1.5 million buttons – the number of children killed during the Holocaust as estimated by Yad Vashem.
Almost exactly 10 years later, Bialik College achieved its goal and on 17 February 2017, the College held an opening ceremony to unveil the Button Project Installation. There were over 250 guests in attendance, including senior students, Bialik grandparent Holocaust survivors, leaders of the Jewish community and parliamentarians The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Federal Member for Kooyong and Minister for the Environment and Energy; John Pesutto MP, State Member for Hawthorn and Shadow Attorney-General; Mr M Danby MP Federal Member for Melbourne Ports, and Mr David Southwick MP for Caulfield.
A moving tribute was screened as a trailer precursor to the Button Documentary Film, with a haunting melody performed by alumni Tiah Gordon, who recorded the song “Ponar” at the Belzec concentration camp in 2016.
Guests were given the opportunity of placing their own buttons into the canister for Poland, which houses over 750,000 buttons and weighs 450 kilograms – each button representing the unique life of a child lost to this world.
An outstanding feature of this entire project was the wider communal involvement. Buttons were sent to Bialik from all over Australia including from farmers in rural Australia, schools as far north as Alice Springs, Perth, Sydney, Queensland – universities and individuals – as young as 3 and older than 93; but also from the wider world including America, New Zealand, Israel, Russia and France. Many schools of different faiths also held button collection drives and sent us their contributions.
We are very grateful to everyone who has contributed to this amazing project – thank you!
Click here to watch the video.