Published in 1947, Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl” has been read by millions of people all over the world and remains one of the most important pieces of literature to come from the period of World War II, according to Deacon Jim Casa. Courtesy photo
Published in 1947, Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl” has been read by millions of people all over the world and remains one of the most important pieces of literature to come from the period of World War II, according to Deacon Jim Casa. Courtesy photo
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” wrote 13-year-old Anne Frank, as she hid from the Nazis in a secret annex of an old office building in Amsterdam. She would die two years later in a concentration camp.

For Deacon Jim Casa, who serves in Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, “creating a program that would tell the story of one of the worst events in human history” would be a meaningful contribution to Anne Frank’s extraordinary vision, in the hopes of “bringing people together to learn from the tragic mistakes of the past.”

As a result, after working together for two years with his good friend Joel Fabian, a Holocaust survivor and member of the congregation of Temple Har Zion, Mount Holly, The Anne Frank Project was born.

The project, which will be held in the Burlington County Library Oct. 9 and 23, and Nov. 6, represents a collaborative effort between Sacred Heart Parish, Temple Har Zion, the Esther Raab Holocaust Museum and Goodwin Education Center, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Cherry Hill and the Rancocas Valley Clergy Association. The sessions will engage participants through films, books and discussions. 

Deacon Casa recalled, “Before the COVID pandemic, I had wanted to do a program that would combine my parish, Sacred Heart, and our neighbors, the congregation of Temple Har Zion. However, the pandemic guidelines put the brakes on any efforts we may have taken.” 

Following the easing of COVID restrictions, Deacon Casa reached out to Fabian to propose his idea that they collaborate on a project oriented towards remembrance of the Holocaust and the education of others as an effort to ensure that such horrors against humanity never happen again. He acknowledged being profoundly affected by a television series about the atrocities of the Holocaust while in college. “From then on, I have looked to make Holocaust awareness an important matter to promote and speak to,” he said.

Fabian, who is also personally passionate about the project, spoke to the urgency of educating the next generation about the realities of the Holocaust. A child survivor of the Theresienstadt camp, which saw nearly 90 percent of the 15,000 children who entered its doors perish, Fabian noted that of central importance to The Anne Frank Project is educating participants not only about the Holocaust, but the reality that religious prejudice in general is still a very real threat today. “It’s something that’s still happening,” he stressed, noting the rise in anti-religious violence happening at synagogues, churches and mosques. 

Each of the three sessions of The Anne Frank Project will have a specific focus. (See sidebar.)

It is the shared hope of Deacon Casa and Fabian that The Anne Frank Project will provide a valuable opportunity for education and interfaith dialogue, inspiring those in attendance to contribute to a culture of love and respect for all of God’s children. Fabian also has a special inspiration that drives his involvement in such projects and has been at the heart of his educational efforts for more than 20 years. “Survivors were given a mandate by those in the camps to tell others,” he explained. “They said, ‘If you don’t tell people, no one will know we lived.’”

In preparation for the program, participants are encouraged to obtain and read a copy of Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl,” which, “since its publication in 1947, has been read by millions of people all over the world and remains one of the most important pieces of literature to come from the period of World War II,” said Deacon Casa.

Participation in The Anne Frank Project is free and open to all. High school and middle school youth are especially encouraged to participate.

The three segments in the series, each which begin at 1:30 p.m., will be held in the Burlington County Library Theater in Westampton on Woodlane Road. To learn more about what will be covered in each of the three segments, visit TrentonMonitor.com>FAITH & CULTURE>ISSUES & ADVOCACY.For questions, contact Deacon Casa at 609-267-0209, ext. 305, or email him at fisherking13@comcast.net.