Hillels across the country have convened in recent days to share stories about the Holocaust, preserving memories from one generation to another to ensure that they are never forgotten. Here are just a few examples of these events:
Students walk through an exhibit housed in full-scale cattle car replica during Hillel at Guelph’s Holocaust Education Week. (Photo courtesy of Hillel at Guelph.)
Metro Detroit’s Ninth Annual Conference on the Holocaust
More than 50 Holocaust survivors met with students at the 9th Annual Conference on the Holocaust. Tilly Shames, executive director of University of Michigan’s Hillel, told Michigan Daily: “We’re at a time where we will not have many years left with Holocaust survivors who can share their first-hand accounts of their lives in Eastern Europe before, during, and after the Holocaust.” Gabby Roth, a sophomore at University of Michigan and co-president of the Conference on the Holocaust (COTH), echoed those sentiments. Roth’s leadership was inspired by her late grandfather, a Holocaust survivor who placed a high precedent on sharing his story with future generations. “It was really important to me to do something on campus that honored his legacy. It’s definitely a big part of my identity, and I wanted to get involved in something that educated people on campus about the Holocaust,” Roth told Michigan Daily. As COTH co-president and senior at University of Michigan, Ariel Berger, told the student paper, “As students, we are presented with the incredible opportunity of being able to hear first-hand the stories of these survivors and their unimaginable hardships as well as their triumphs.” The stories made an impact on senior Kelly McDonald. “It’s not something you can just look up online. Hearing it in person is a lot more meaningful,” she told Michigan Daily.
Lehigh’s Screening of “My Italian Secret, The Forgotten Heroes”
Lehigh University hosted a screening and panel discussion with members of the team responsible for the documentary, “My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes.” The film recounts the story of brave Italians who rescued Jews and other refugees escaping the Nazis during World War II. Producer Joseph Perella explained how “[these] Italians’ efforts helped save 80 percent of the Jewish population in Italy and most of the 10,000 foreign Jews who escaped Italy in the ‘30s,” in an interview with the Brown and White. Perella, a Lehigh alumnus, “saw this film as a great way to bring the Hillel Society, Newman Center, religion department, history department, and whoever else together to talk about our common humanity and emphasize that if you’re not indifferent, you can make a difference.”
Ithaca College’s Annual Holocaust Presentation
Wendy Lower, author of "Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields," spoke at Ithaca College’s annual Holocaust Lecture on Oct. 26. Lower spoke about the topic of her book, German women who aided the Nazi genocide in Eastern Europe. Lower is the John K. Roth Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College and a research associate at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.
George Mason University Hillel’s Expressions of the Holocaust: Memories
George Mason University Hillel’s Expressions of the Holocaust event was an interactive discussion with Holocaust survivors. Small clusters of community members met to discuss their connection to the Holocaust and how to preserve the memory for future generations. This year, 30 Holocaust survivors spoke to 170 participants. Said one survivor, “This is my favorite event because I feel like we are actually being listened to rather than being here for ceremonial purposes. I love speaking with young people to help them understand more about the Holocaust.” Student coordinator Taylor Kreinces said, “It was inspiring to see students actively asking questions about why the Holocaust is important and why it should be continually taught in the future.”
Tufts Hillel’s Remembering The Righteous: A Story Of Holocaust Survival And Reunion
Tufts’ Cummings/Hillel Holocaust and Genocide Education Program is hosting an event Nov. 18 to share a student’s grandmother’s story “of being saved by a Righteous Gentile during the Holocaust and how the two families reconnected seventy years later.” The program teaches students about the Holocaust and modern genocide to teach students, “to be active citizens and to defy prejudice, intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia wherever they occur.” According to the Cummings/Hillel Program for Holocaust and Genocide Education’s website, their objective is “to teach a new generation of activists and advocates the importance of moral action in the face of persecution and oppression.”
Hillel at Guelph’s Holocaust Education Week
Hillel at Guelph students brought to campus a full-scale replica of a cattle car used to transport Jews and other minorities to concentration camps as part of a special exhibit on the Holocaust. (The event was made possible through the financial support of Hillel Ontario and The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.) The event was truly immersive, as students were able to step inside the cattle car. Once there, they saw a display of Nazi-taken photographs of people dying, starving and being tortured in such cattle cars as well as other photos of the Holocaust. Community members also heard from Holocaust survivor Hedy Bohm and attended a special Shabbat dinner.
Said Holocaust Education Week committee co-chair Brodie Marks: "Our goal was to provide the most impactful experiential learning opportunity possible. Not only did the cattle car and the Holocaust survivor provide information about the Holocaust, but it evoked personal feeling and connection to the Holocaust and its atrocities.”
Marc Newburgh, CEO of Hillel Ontario, had this to say: "I have never seen a more powerful demonstration of the power and vision of our young people than I did at Guelph [that day].The cattle car was a dream of one student, made into reality by the working together of over 25 students. They had the support of Hillel and engaged more people through their creativity and innovation than any other program.
“I watched as over 1,000 students streamed into a room to listen to Hedy Bohm's testimony; students from diverse backgrounds, cultures and religions, all of whom had been brought together because the Guelph Hillel students made the Holocaust relevant beyond just the Jewish community. They built bridges on campus and united the student population."
How has your campus Hillel created programming and space for discussion and reflection? Share your Hillel’s best practices and resources with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.