by George J Elbaum
Fletcher Middle School has a diverse enrollment of 715 students in grades 6-8 and has earned high rankings by NICHE: A+ Overall and in Academics, and 6th place among 2,575 Best Public Middle Schools in California, with student proficiency of 84% in reading and 79% in math. The school is named after Ellen Fletcher, who was an inspirational civic leader in Palo Alto, but also a survivor of the Kindertransport, who at age 10 in 1939 was sent for her safety by her parents from Nazi Germany to a foster home in England. This truly resonated with me, as I was sent at age 8 in 1947 for my safety by my mother from Poland to Palestine (though an accident in France sent me back to Poland).
My talk to 225 7th graders was organized by English teacher Nerissa Wong-VanHaren. The students were well prepared, having read Diary of Anne Frank and studied propaganda, scapegoating, Nazi concentration camps, and current day antisemitism. The students even prepared a stack of questions on 3×5 cards, but unfortunately my talk was delayed by 15+ minutes until the students settled in the auditorium, so even with shortening my talk there was enough time for only one question. This was disappointing, as the Q&A is most important because it allows the students to express what they did or didn’t understand and what interests them. However, several students managed to approach me afterwards with questions (including Rap asking about my most embarrassing baseball story), hand shakes and thank you’s, so I felt that my message was heard.
Arrangements for my talk were by Penny Savryn, Program Coordinator of JFCS Holocaust Center.