Cohen Hillel Academy, Marblehead, MA – Dec 2, 2010 morning

By George J Elbaum

This presentation, my first in the Boston area, was arranged by Facing History & Ourselves’ Jan Darsa at the Cohen Hillel Academy,  a private school providing “an academically challenging program grounded in Judaism” with a focus on social justice that “teaches students that they are an integral part of many communities: school, home, religious, family, local, and global, and that their actions can change those communities for the better.”  I spoke to 8th graders taught by Pamela Aranov who are currently studying the Holocaust.  Their awareness of and sensitivity to the subject showed in their many insightful questions.  Speaking with them and answering their questions was personally very gratifying.

A few days after my visit I received a large envelope from Pamela Aranov with letters from her 8th grade students.  These letters were very heartfelt and all contained phrases and sentences that reinforced my decision to give these talks.  The most memorable of these are excerpted below.   

  • In all honesty I really did not know what the War did to families and individual lives.  However, when you came in I felt you were really able to connect me with all that really happened unlike anything I had seen or read at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.
  • After you told us your story you inspired me to find out more about my family’s past and how they escaped.
  • As soon as you began speaking about the events you dealt with, I started to realize that this horrible occurrence in our history really did happen.  I will NEVER let this horrific event be forgotten, that is something I can promise you forever.
  • When I got home yesterday I had a very thorough conversation about the Holocaust with my parents.  It was the first talk that we really had about this subject.
  • Remembering is such a small task, but it must be done.  If it is done correctly, it becomes a large event that can change the course of history.
  • As a result of your presentation we students are thinking about new ways we can reach out and help our community in a profound way such as you are.
  • I have learned that when I’m thinking of things that upset me, I will think of all the things that others had to go through that I can’t even imagine.
  • It is hard to listen to what happened, but now I have the knowledge to pass it on and never forget it.
  • Your story and my grandpa’s story are two stories that symbolize the small chances and luck that it took to survive.
  • Out of every person you met throughout the war, the kindest one is the one who remained in your mind.  This taught me that kindness is remembered throughout the years while evil can be forgotten.  By learning this, I was inspired to try to make a kind-hearted impact in someone else’s life. …. You shared your story, which is the first step in motivating my generation to prevent such disasters.

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