One of the most fundamental and meaningful ways to commemorate the Holocaust is to witness the testimonies of survivors. This generation of college students will be the among the last to have the opportunity to speak with and connect directly with survivors. Many Hillels spent this Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, in conversation with survivors who stressed the importance of remembering the past, living with joy, and addressing injustices in the world.
Students at University of Kansas Hillel (KU Hillel) and University of Pennsylvania Hillel (Penn Hillel) were privileged to hear the stories of Dr. Judy Jacobs and Michael Bornstein in observance of Yom HaShoah.
KU Hillel welcomed Dr. Judy Jacobs and her family for dinner with students on campus. Dr. Jacobs shared her story of being taken from her home in Budapest, Hungary and incarcerated with her parents in Bergen-Belsen. KU Hillel students share their reflections from the event:
“Hillel’s Yom HaShoah event, Memories With Hillel, was a unique experience where students from all kinds of Jewish backgrounds could hear Dr. Jacobs’ memories and make sure they don’t get lost. Rather than just sharing her experiences of unjust and inhumane treatment, Dr. Jacobs focused on the moments of joy in her life. She taught me that while we can never forget the atrocities of the Holocaust, Jewish people are so much more than that oppression.”
– Kate Jacobs, ‘23
“I take every opportunity to hear Holocaust survivors speak. Their stories are so important for our generation to retell in order to prevent such atrocities from happening again. There aren’t very many people left who survived the Holocaust, and soon we will be responsible for telling their stories. I think this was a perfect program to have, especially on Yom Hashoah, and I know I learned a lot from it.”
– Hannah Smuckler, ‘25
“The experience with our guest speaker was both powerful and memorable. As someone who has a couple family members who survived the Holocaust, and more who unfortunately did not, getting to hear the story of a survivor while there are so few left is truly impactful.”
– David Marx, ‘24
At Penn Hillel, Mr. Bornstein told his story of being a four year old in Auschwitz and the vivid memories he has of the horrors of the infamous death camp. His message to the students was that, “the struggle to end persecution is universal and ongoing.” He believes that the mandate of those who bear witness to the stories of Holocaust survivors is to fight injustice wherever they encounter it.
With a commitment to living with joy and a refusal to tolerate injustice in our world, Hillels across the world move from commemorating Yom HaShoah to preparing for Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day. Stay tuned for campus updates and more.