The Achieve Program, San Francisco, CA – April 18, 2021

by George J Elbaum

The Achieve Program is a year-round, four-year high school scholarship and academic enrichment program for underserved students from low-income families.  By providing tuition grants plus quality educational and extensive individual support, Achieve increases the options and opportunities for its students, all of whom are selected based on demonstrated academic excellence and high motivation to change and improve their lives.

Currently, achieve serves 94 students and has a staff of six, including three educators, all dedicated to supporting and mentoring the students.  Although Achieve’s tuition grants enable students to attend private schools in the San Francisco Bay area, the most important aspect of the program is Achieve’s active support to students throughout their four years of high school.  Mentoring, tutoring, cultural excursions, summer internships, community service programs, extensive college counseling, and parent support are some of the services provided to ensure that Achieve students are informed, educated, service-minded, and well-prepared to succeed in college and beyond.  Achieve thus opens a world of possibilities for its students.

One of Achieve’s students, Mia, is also a participant in the JFCS Holocaust Center’s The Next Chapter program.  She attended my talk to The Next Chapter last month and, through the JFCS Holocaust Center, she invited me to speak to her community at Achieve.  Mia wrote, “I wanted to be able to share this wonderful experience with my other Achieve mates. I wanted to share (his) inspiring stories with all of them, to help them reflect on their own lives just like I have.”  Starting with Mia’s invitation, Achieve’s Sarah Jiménez and Penny Savryn, the Center’s Education & Marketing Manager, organized my talk.

Notes from Students

Two weeks after my talk to The Achieve Program students I received via email a Kudoboard with “thank you” notes from the students.  Typically, when receiving notes or letters from students, my wife Mimi and I read these together and we highlight and excerpt those statements that especially resonate with us.  However, the Kudoboard format made it difficult to do this, resulting in a delay, but Penny Savryn graciously transposed these notes into text, and Mimi and I excerpted the key statements which are listed below.  Thank you very much for your notes, your thoughts, and your “thank you’s”.

  • One of the highlights from your speech that really stood out to me was when you said that the first time you spoke at the Boston Holocaust Memorial, you realized your story “had value.” Your story has made a huge impact on students like me, providing us with more knowledge on what happened and how it affected those who were victims of this unjust, horrific time in history. I want to thank you for allowing us to see your vulnerable side and telling us your story!
  • Your story gives me motivation to push through my struggles knowing how courageous others can be like yourself all those years ago, and even now by sharing your story of survival.
  • I like how you kept emphasizing the golden rule to treat others the way you would want to be treated all throughout your presentation. Once again thank you for your unforgettable presentation filled with amazing advice.
  • Your mother’s courage and resilience especially stood out to me because it must have been extremely terrifying having to constantly hide and outsmart the Nazi soldiers.
  • Your comment about living in the moment stood out to me because often we find ourselves anxious about the future.
  • It was a very sad and vulnerable story but very inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing it.
  • What stood out to me was that even as a child you were strong enough to live through something like this and share your story with others as an adult.
  • I will cherish your advice and call out injustice when I witness it.
  • Hearing that you struggled to take the words out of your mouth at first was something that made me understand how hard and how courageous someone must be in order to go on a podium and speak of their tragedy. I will move forward in life and speak out those words that are hard to say the first time around. As long as I get the people to hear my voice and understand my words, I will speak out as many times as necessary.
  • Knowing that your forgiveness was even extended to the people that have caused you and your family so much grief was very admirable, and it has taught me to become more forgiving towards others.
  • The number one thing that stuck with me is the Golden rule because this is something I truly believe in and abide by in my life.
  •  I appreciated how you talked about recent anti-Semitism incidents like the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting because this reminded me that injustices are still present in our society, and we must keep working hard to improve as a society.
  • One thing that stood out to me was the idea that blaming others would only lead to more hatred.
  • After hearing what you went through and knowing that you were still able to become successful despite the odds, encourages me to work harder.
  • I will never truly know the life you lived, but you helped me understand your story in such an impactful way. Thank you for having the courage to tell us your story because now we will learn to help others in need.
  • Something I took away was your journey in accepting the terrible things that have happened to you and your family, and your courage to share your powerful story. This sent an important message to me which is that everyone has a valuable story to share.
  • Thank you for sharing the courageousness of your mother and the compassion shown by the Polish families that took you in.
  • Something that amazes me was your statement that accusing others just encourages more hate. In the future, I will make it a point to speak up when I see injustice, and I’ll always uphold the golden rule.
  • Schools don’t talk about all that occurred during the Holocaust; I am very grateful that people like you take time to educate generations about events of the past. If we don’t teach future generations about the past it is doomed to repeat itself.
  • I really needed to hear someone tell me the importance of speaking up no matter what. I feel that there have definitely been areas of my life in which I could have spoken up.
  • I just returned from a school retreat and I thought a lot about the words you said and how you refused to back down in the face of adversity. It made me reflect on how I want to live the rest of my life.
  • Although I would like to believe I follow the golden rule all the time, that really isn’t the case and I need to work on that and stay true to my word.
  • I especially appreciate how you drew parallels of bigotry from the Holocaust to events happening today, such as discrimination towards Asian Americans and immigrants.
  • Your story is truly inspiring and encourages us to speak out about injustices happening in our community. Although speaking out can be a bit frightening at times, your words really impacted me and I feel much more confident in using my voice.
  • Your story was very inspiring, especially when you talked about how hatred and racism thrive in the shadows and we ourselves should speak out whenever we see something that is unjust.
  • I really appreciate what you said to us, and can honestly say that this has been one of the most impactful talks that I have ever heard. After hearing your talk, I decided to speak out about my problems instead of keeping them in.
  • Your presentation emphasized how important it is to reshare stories so that yours, and millions of other survivors’ experiences will not be forgotten. As police brutality and hate crimes keep rising, I will ensure to spread awareness to people through social media.
  • I truly felt that your story was an eye-opening experience and I found it very motivating.  I could tell how much passion you have for teaching others what it was like to survive a tragic event like this. I was able to sense the emotion you had about this topic even through the computer screen and it really touched me. 
  • I know this took a lot of courage to tell people you’ve never seen before about something so personal, I just wanted to tell you that I deeply appreciated the story of your life. It taught me some things I never knew, and how to be a better person and be more grateful because there is always someone that is less fortunate than you or the next. 
  • Your stories gave me a new perspective on life and the world as a whole. Additionally, you inspired me to make change and help others within my own community. I really valued your talk.
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Otay Ranch High School, Chula Vista, CA – April 14, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

Otay Ranch High School is a 4-year high school with somewhat unusual demographics: its 2372 student body is comprised of 59% Hispanic, 18% Filipino, 8% two or more races, 6% White, 5% Black, and 4% Asian.  Nevertheless, it has Great Schools Rating of 8/10 overall, College Readiness rating of 9/10, Equity 7/10, and Test Scores 8/10.  Its 4-year high school graduation rate is 97% vs. California state avg of 85%, and the percentage of graduates who meet UC/CSU entrance requirements is 65% vs CA state avg of 51%, and low-income (34% of students) are not far behind with 59% vs CA State avg is only 43%.  This is a remarkable academic performance.

My presentation was organized by World History Teacher Robert Tilburg whose 10th grade class studied WW2 and included events prior to 1939 that discriminated against the Jewish population of Germany such as the Nuremberg race laws, Kristallnacht etc.  The students then studied the Holocaust for 3 weeks, including the flood of refugees to surrounding countries and the response of those countries, the establishments of Jewish ghettos and then the “Final Solution”.  Subsequent to my talk the students will analyze primary source text and images from the Holocaust and will also work on a research presentation in one of two areas: Jewish resistance to the Holocaust, or comparison of the Holocaust to other events of genocide in the world.  In addition to Robert Tilburg’s 10th graders my presentation was also attended by teachers Patti Heredia and Allie Sanders with their classes.

The credit for introducing Robert Tilburg and me, and “incubating” this introduction into a successful presentation goes to Kael Sagheer, Education Coordinator of the Institute for Holocaust Education (IHE) of Omaha, who recently organized my presentation at IHE’s Week of Understanding.

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Jewish Family and Children’s Services, San Francisco, CA – April 8, 2021 Yom HaShoah via video

by George J Elbaum
My very first talk was on Yom HaShoah 11 years ago, April 10, 2010, organized by MIT Hillel at the Boston Holocaust Memorial. It was a painful experience, but immediately afterwards I was encouraged by the audience to “Keep doing this! Keep speaking so that your story is not forgotten.”, and today, 11 years later, this is my 293rd talk. It was organized by Penny Savryn, Education & Marketing Manager of the JFCS Holocaust Center with assistance from Shayna Dollinger and Aliza Mayer, both Pell University Fellows at the JFCS Holocaust Center, as part of the Center’s Yom HaShoah Days of Commemoration (see program below). The audience of this Zoom presentation included over 200 community participants from the Bay Area, New York, Canada, Oregon, Marbury Middle School in Alabama, as well as all of the middle-schoolers from The Brandeis School of San Francisco.

Letters from Students

Several few weeks after my talk at JFCS-organized event on Yom HaShoah I received via JFCS a large envelope with many thank-you cards from the students at The Brandeis School of San Francisco.   Last night, together with my wife Mimi we read all of them and excerpted those statements that especially resonated with us.  These excerpts are listed below.  Thank you very much for your cards, your thoughts, and your “thank you’s”.

  • My grandpa is also from Warsaw, Poland, and I believe that your speech is a sign for me to talk to him and hear his story. Thank you for being so humble and brave, it is deeply appreciated.
  • My grandpa is also a Holocaust survivor and he has only shared his story once, but I hope that if I tell him about your many speeches to schools, he will be inspired to do the same.
  • I specifically remember your story about waiting at the train station for your father who you didn’t remember. I personally have a good relationship with my dad and couldn’t imagine a world without him.
  • I hope you have a good rest of your day and week and month and life!
  • One thing I will take away is how important is sacrificing for your family when they need it most. Stay positive!
  • Thanks to you I have learned a new perspective on the Holocaust. I hope you keep telling your story and keep inspiring people.
  • Thank you so much for telling us your story. We are impressed how you chose to not listen to the guidance counsellor and to follow your dreams.  We are inspired to do the same and are grateful for your time.…… Class of 2020


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California High School, San Ramon, CA – March 29 & 30, 2021 (2 groups) via video

by George J Elbaum

California High School (CalHigh), San Ramon, CA, has an enrollment of 2777 students in grades 9 thru 12 and a truly excellent academic record: while attaining a 4-year graduation rate of 99% vs. state average of 85%, it did so while receiving Great Schools ratings of 10 for college readiness and 9 for test scores.  Its ACT college readiness rate is 88% vs. 55% state average, reflecting student proficiency of 77% in English vs. 55% state average and 61% in math vs. 40% state average – an enviable record of both, high student quantity and high quality.  Its demographics are White 44%,  Asian 31%, Hispanic 12%, two or more races 7%,  Filipino 4%. and Black 2%.  Such performance has been maintained over many years, such that CalHigh was ranked No. 250 in the top 500 US high schools by Newsweek in 2011, placing it within the top 1.5% of the over 18,000 high schools in the United States.

My 2 presentations (March 29 and March 30) were to approximately 140 10th grade students (and some of their family members) who have been studying World History between the two World Wars.  The students’ preparations included reading Art Spiegelman’s  Maus, watching The Lady in Number 6, and analyzing art of David Olere, a Polish-born French painter best known for his explicit drawings and paintings based on his experiences as a Jewish Sonderkommando inmate at Auschwitz.  This unusual use of Holocaust art is described by CalHigh teacher Regina Lyon as follows: ‘We always look at art in conjunction with literature in the course, and in this unit we talk about different ways of processing grief and trauma, and Olere’s art is our jumping off point for that conversation.”  This Holocaust unit is followed by one which addresses the question: “How can we empower ourselves and others to make positive social change”

The 2 events were organized by Regina Lyon and Hannah Cheng, who teach Global Studies English & History, and supported by Tucker Farrar, and the Cal High PTSA and Academic Boosters.  My participation and other arrangements were organized by Penny Savryn, Education & Marketing Manager of the JFCS Holocaust Center

1st group – March 29, 2021
2nd group – March 30, 2021
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The Bay School, San Francisco, CA – March 25, 2021 PM via video

by George J Elbaum

Founded in 2004, The Bay School (Bay) is an independent, coeducational college preparatory high school in the Presidio of San Francisco.  With almost 400 students in grades 9 through 12, Bay balances challenging academics and innovative thinking with a mindful approach to learning and life – its goal is to see students unlock their individual and collective potential so they begin to realize their roles in a dynamic world.   Bay believes that a broad range of perspectives and experiences play a crucial role in achieving its educational mission, thus it intentionally recruits students and teachers from diverse cultural, racial, economic and geographic backgrounds.

Emphasizing depth of content, Bay’s curriculum focuses on problem solving, promotes critical thinking and encourages students to connect academic study with their extracurricular lives. Bay’s 9th and 10th grade courses build a broad foundation of basic skills, focusing on the relationships among traditional academic disciplines. Students’ interests and talents increasingly drive the academic program in 11th and 12th grade.

This was my 4th visit (albeit virtual due to Covid-19) to The Bay School, and it was again organized by Humanities teacher Hannah Wagner.  The online audience was approximately 90-100 students in 10th-grade Humanities class who have recently studied the aftermath of WWI, the Treaty of Versailles, and Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s.  Shortly after my talk all 10th graders will read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Finally, all students will undertake a WWII research project, some of which will involve learning about the Holocaust in depth through primary source analysis.  

My talk was arranged by Penny Savryn, Education & Marketing Manager, JFCS Holocaust Center.

Letters from Students

A month after my virtual visit to The Bay School I received a large envelope with over four dozen short notes and long letters from the students, one even decorated with many small hearts and one with a very cute drawing (see below).  However, a very busy schedule kept me from reading these for another month, when together with my wife Mimi we read them all and excerpted those statements that truly resonated with us.  These excerpts are listed below.  Thank you very much for your letters, your thoughts, and your “thank you’s” – they make me feel that perhaps I’m making a difference.

  • I found your idea of having faith in people, but a lack of faith in humanity itself fascinating.  I often find it difficult to see the world in those shades of gray, rather than in black-and-white we’re so often taught by parents and administrations alike, and I strongly admire your ability to do so.
  • While I recognize that antisemitism and racism toward others are still hideously present and persistent in our society, I believe hearing and sharing stories like yours is one step towards genuine progress.  Thank you for your time, words, and courage.
  • I can’t imagine how much courage it takes to talk about your experience in a time like that.
  • Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us and inspiring us to lead better, kinder lives.
  • Your experience with the airplane and getting into MIT, as well as well as your advice about not being affected by other people’s doubts in you, was my favorite part and I’m still thinking about it.
  • When you told the story about the Polish kid who didn’t want to come to your talk because of antisemitic beliefs and later not only came but also brought your book and how that kid was able to change his thoughts of hatred genuinely brought a tear to my eye.  I wish you the best because you truly are doing god’s work.
  • Your story and how you believe that the world should be led with love and compassion, and not hate and judgment really stood out to me.  I will live my life with that ideology in mind.
  • I really enjoyed the inspiring story you gave us because it goes to show there is hope even in darkness. 
  • My family is originally from Germany and left during the war.  I know my great grandfather had similar experience to yours, but never talked about it.  Hearing your story made me feel very connected to my family and grateful they are still here today.
  • Your story made me think a lot about the way the world works and how history likes to repeat itself.
  • My grandfather is also a Holocaust survivor, and his story is similar to yours in the regard that it is only by luck that he is still alive.
  • It’s change-makers like you who pave the way for other survivors of traumatizing events to tell their stories and speak up against what’s wrong.
  • By telling your story you are helping us to understand how important it is to stand up against hatred and thus prevent as much racism and genocide as possible.
  • To be able to go through something so traumatizing and catastrophic and still be willing to use your story as a way to teach is truly admirable
  • I find it very inspiring how you continue to educate people on why hatred should be avoided.  You gave me the rare perspective of someone who has been in life-threatening danger because of hate.
  • 4 years ago in October 2018 you visited my middle school and I still have the notes from that day stored in my computer.  I sat at the back of the classroom, tired after staying up that night.  After you told your story I immediately sat up in my chair and started to think about how different I would be in the 1940s.  As soon as I saw the cover of your book last Thursday I excitedly texted my friend.  Thank you so much for inspiring me.
  • Your talk was mesmerizing to hear of your bravery & hardships throughout the Holocaust & the years following.  I specifically enjoyed getting to hear your mother’s story.  You speak of her with such love & admiration; the world was lucky to have her.
  • Your story was really inspiring, especially when you talked about living with love and kindness and not hatred.
  • I am astonished that such an atrocity ever happened and extremely grateful to have heard your story.
  • I am so glad I got to hear you speak again.  In middle school I heard you speak in person in 2018.  I remember a lot of your speech the first time but not every detail, and I am so glad I got to hear it a second time.  Your story is incredible and I am so thankful that you are willing to share it with people.
  • Thank you for inspiring my class and me.  I won’t forget your story.
  • I am at a loss for words when it comes to describing your story.  It was inspiring, saddening, and truly made me thing about my own life.
  • I am so glad that you have made the decision to share your experience with not only us but with so many others.  Thank you again.
  • It is important to know what happened, because without an understanding of what the Holocaust was, people won’t be able to see similar things happen before they are fully in effect.
  • To get up after falling and keep going is one of the hardest things anyone can do.  The fact that you have done this so many times throughout your life is truly inspiring.
  • You taught me to never give up even if the struggle is hard, and that standing up for what you believe in is the most important thing that you can do to make a difference.
  • It seems unbelievable to me that something so horrible could have happened and yet you still had the courage to move on from your trauma and start afresh.
  • During your talk you asked us if we would take in a persecuted minority out of the kindness of our hearts and hide them from the authorities, much like the families who took Jewish people into their care during the Holocaust.  At the time I was unsure what my answer was.  After listening to your story more I came to the conclusion that I would help people even if it put my own life in danger.  Hearing how grateful you were and seeing what person you grew up to be you inspired me and made me choose to help people if given the chance.
  • We’ve never walked in your shoes so we don’t know exactly what you may feel retelling your story but thank you for being so willing to tell us.
  • I’ve researched the Holocaust before (I attended a Jewish day school) but hearing about it in so much depth from a survivor was so much different.
  • I thank you for without your talk I would not have had a very important conversation with my family about our history.
  • Your story was very inspiring and allowed me to recognize the privilege I have today.
  • Your story gave me hope and taught me to believe in myself even if no one else does.
  • For the first time in a very long time I felt completely engaged with something, which was a really fantastic feeling.  It really put into perspective the things that I care about and spend time on.
  • I read about the Holocaust, first-hand accounts and primary sources even, but none were as vivid and striking to hear as yours.  You are an engaging storyteller, and your talk left me with a lot to think about as a non-Jewish person.
  • My mother and younger brother listened too, and were stunned by the detail and story itself.
  • I wish I could write more eloquently, but I hope you know (I’m actually sure you do) how many people you have educated and made to rethink their place in life.
  • I am so thankful for your talk along with the fact that you got to survive.
  • Hearing how much luck you had means that you were meant to still be here today to educate schools around the world about the Holocaust.
  • I now perceive the world so differently.  Thank you for not letting your voice be silenced.
  • I know that I’m just one of the high schoolers you got to talk to, but I am so proud of you.  Thank you for rising above everything terrible and helping others understand.  Forever grateful

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Institute for Holocaust Education, Omaha, NE – Week of Understanding, Fremont High School – March 25, 2021 AM via video

by George J Elbaum 

The Institute for Holocaust Education (IHE) of Omaha, NE, was established in 2001 with the mission to provide educational resources, workshops, survivor testimony, and integrated arts programming to middle and high school students. IHE’s annual Week of Understanding is in its 11th year and brings testimony of Holocaust survivors to over 7,000 students in Nebraska and Iowa each year. This year there are 6 survivor speakers and 27 schools participating.  Two of these schools to whose students I spoke are St. Mary’s Catholic School of Omaha on March 24 and Fremont High School of Fremont, NE, on March 25.

Fremont High School is located in Fremont, NE, a 30-minute drive west of Omaha, and has an enrollment of approximately 2,000 students in grades 9 thru 12.  This is the first year Fremont has participated in the Week of Understanding, facilitated by using Zoom, and I spoke to their entire student body and many of the staff. Fremont’s participation was organized by Ashley Bignell, English Teacher and Multicultural Club Sponsor.

My participation in Week of Understanding was arranged by Scott Littky, IHE’s Executive Director, and assisted by Kael Sagheer, IHE’s Education Coordinator.

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Institute for Holocaust Education, Omaha, NE – Week of Understanding, St. Mary’s Catholic School – March 24, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

The Institute for Holocaust Education (IHE) of Omaha, NE, was established in 2001 with the mission to provide educational resources, workshops, survivor testimony, and integrated arts programming to middle and high school students. IHE’s annual Week of Understanding is in its 11th year and brings testimony of Holocaust survivors to over 7,000 students in Nebraska and Iowa each year. This year there are 6 survivor speakers and 27 schools participating.  Two of these schools to whose students I spoke are St. Mary’s Catholic School of Omaha on March 24 and Fremont High School of Fremont, NE, on March 25.

St. Mary’s Catholic School of the Archdiocese of Omaha has approximately 200 students in pre-Kindergarten thru the 8th grade, and it has participated in the Week of Understanding every year.  I spoke today to their 6-8th graders, as arranged by St. Mary’s teacher Carol Sheridan.

My participation in Week of Understanding was arranged by Scott Littky, IHE’s Executive Director, and assisted by Kael Sagheer, IHE’s Education Coordinator.

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Arroyo High School, San Lorenzo, CA – March 16, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, across the bay from San Francisco, has a high diversity student body of approximately 1,800 students. It is organized into several “schools within a school,” and this is the 10th consecutive year that I have spoken to its 10th grade students studying the Holocaust.  This year was again via the internet and Zoom, with each student at their computer at home, because the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has still prevented in-school classes.  Looking at my web posts of pre-pandemic visits to Arroyo, with dozens & dozens of photos of students and remembering the brief but memorable chats with students & teachers, I look forward to a real rather than virtual visit to Arroyo next year.

This year’s virtual “visit” was again organized by teacher Jess Vaughn, as it was last April and several of my previous visits.  Participating now were approximately 80 students in 10th-grade English, who were reading Elie Wiesel’s Night and have studied background information about Hitler’s rise to power, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust.  They’ve also viewed a video about Jewish partisan resistance fighters.

As last year, I was again impressed by the quality of the students’ questions: they were perceptive, sensitive, and mature.  I view students’ questions as a reflection not only of the students themselves but also of the teaching, so it was obvious that Jess Vaughn prepared her class very well. 

The event was arranged by Penny Savryn, Program Coordinator of the JFCS Holocaust Center.  Penny’s familiarity with my talk allowed her to “steer me back on track” seamlessly when I inattentively skipped over a couple parts of my usual talk.  Thank you, Penny!

Letters from Students

Ten days ago I received an email from teacher Jess Vaughn with letters from her students written after our March 16th presentation.  However, a very busy schedule kept me from reading these until yesterday, when together with my wife Mimi we read them all and excerpted those statements that truly resonated with us.  These excerpts are listed below.  Thank you very much for your letters, your thoughts, and your “thank you’s”.

  • Hearing your story really impacted me in a healing way, oddly. Hearing your story made me feel less alone because I know what it’s like to be moved from home to home. I am a foster child, and having to move and be relocated throughout childhood is a really hard thing to adapt to. And in a way, I was moved from each home for my safety, too.  And hopefully, me being able to relate on a small scale, will help you to feel a sense of healing, too. Your story is truly inspiring and motivates me to carry strength just like you!
  • I feel lucky that I was born in the time that war had ended and not go through the darkest time in life like you and your community.
  • Your story was very meaningful to me when you talked about the question if I would have taken a kid into my home just like how you were taken in, and I thought about it for a bit. It was amazing how kind those families were to take you in even though they knew having you in their household was risking their lives.
  •  Another part of your story that really impacted me was when you talked about only applying to MIT and getting in. You showed me that if I really worked hard for something that I wanted, it could be achieved.
  • What your mom did was really brave and smart. She was really courageous and smart and that really stood out to me.
  • Everything you said was truly inspiring and heartfelt. I’m really grateful for what you shared and hearing it firsthand.
  • My responsibility now to keep your story alive is to tell others who were not able to join the meeting what I learned from it and how things were back then. They will then realize how fortunate we are now.
  • When you were talking about your mother and your bond with her, it really touched me.  It makes me think about all the mothers that were separated from their children. It changed my view on life, I am incredibly lucky to be where I am. Thank you so much for sharing your story, I will never forget it.
  • Now, when I meet different people, I want to use your story as a guide to talk to people about what happened in the past. I think that it is important to keep this story because it is a part of our history and it is what made us who we are today.
  • The most inspiring phrase that I learned from you today was to stand with the people/things, not against them.
  • It’s people like you that inspire and motivate me to do something with my life. I get discouraged so easily over the small things, but listening to your story helped me realize that there are certain things I shouldn’t take for granted.
  • Unfortunately I have a sweet tooth, but that’s something we have in common.
  • Your story about your high school experience inspired me to raise my grades up and be able to do whatever I want, whether to be a mechanic or a real estate agent. I also learned that I can be doing badly in school and still do better if I study more.
  • I have faced many traumas in my life, my childhood, and I want to thank you for sharing your story because it showed the most important thing in the world is respect. Your story will forever stay with me and show what respect and kindness really are.
  • Your story has impacted me in so many ways. You often talked about luck and that is something you and I both can connect to because if it wasn’t for luck I wouldn’t be here either. We all have stories to tell and yours will forever be told through generations because it represents how kindness and respect can save lives.
  • One of the best things I have heard in my lifetime was by you: “The golden rule is a part of every religion.” I will pass this down forever as I remember the stories that you have passed on to me.
  • I like to learn about new things like your story. I also like to paint, write about my life, and cook.  I love them so much because my problems disappear and I only focus on these things.
  • Even through everything that happened, you moved on and that was inspiring to me. Now I know whatever I’m going through, I can move past it. Thank you for sharing your personal life.
  • You taught me that I should never let a bad event affect the way I am today and how I should never dwell in the past.
  • Your stories had a major impact on me because I can visualize how other people would feel who were tortured or suffered during Holocaust.
  • Something that really stuck out to me while listening to your story was the fact that this was all happening without your consciousness. Seeing it from your perspective like growing up thinking you’re just another Polish child and just being moved from house to house with no particular reason was so fascinating to me.
  • I love that you strive for positivity which is definitely something I will keep in mind for my present and my future.
  • When hearing your story all I could really think about is how hard it must have been to be a little boy and have everything taken from you almost in an instant and it is truly wonderful that you made it through that difficult time with no true aftereffects.
  • Thank you for allowing all of us to have this experience first-hand. The danger is never represented accurately through the textbooks we are given.  Hearing the story of your family gave me courage.
  • Hearing how close you were to death as a kid, hearing of the suffering you were too young to understand was saddening, but as someone who grew up sheltered, it gives me inspiration to think that even so young you were so strong.
  • Something that stuck out to me was the many Polish families that decided to help you. Although they knew how much trouble it would get them into, they still cared for you as they knew it was the right thing to do. It shows that even during terrible times, there are still people who stick to their morals and are there to help.
  • It is very inspiring how you still have a great attitude towards the world despite everything you went through. I have viewed life in a more positive way and am motivated to never give up.
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Mercer Island High School, Mercer Island, WA – March 3, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

Mercer Island High School (MIHS) has a total enrollment of 1521 students including Crest Learning Center, an alternative program largely focused on community-based learning in smaller classes.  US News Best Schools ranks MIHS as #8 in Washington and #527 in its National Rankings based on its students’ impressive performance: Mathematics Proficiency 86% vs. 40% state average, Reading Proficiency 95% vs. 70% state average, and College Readiness Index Rank #11 in WA.  MIHS enrollment’s demographics are: White 70%Asian 20%Hispanic 4%, all other 6%; and 3% of students are economically disadvantaged.

Today’s MIHS program follows last week’s (2-24-2021), which involved student-organized presentations by Holocaust speakers, most of them Holocaust survivors, for small groups of its 9th and 10th graders.  Both last week and today, these presentations were held during the school’s supplemental morning “Islander Hour” outside of standard class time.  While many of the students had some background education in the Holocaust, the school’s overarching goal was to give the underclassmen an experience that will help them understand why the Holocaust is important to teach, and why it is not a topic for jokes.  By tasking students to organize the events, MIHS gave the students valuable experience that will undoubtedly be useful in their adult careers, and that included resolving the technical difficulties that were encountered in starting the events.  I want to commend students Bella Hartman, supported by Samantha Wampold, in managing the difficulties unflappably and relying on teachers John Stafford, Ed Puchalla, and Creighton Laughary for support when it became necessary.   

My presentation to approximately 25 10th grade students was arranged by Julia Thompson, Education Program Manager of the Holocaust Center for Humanity.

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Mercer Island High School, Mercer Island, WA – February 24, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

Mercer Island High School (MIHS) has a total enrollment of 1521 students including Crest Learning Center, an alternative program largely focused on community-based learning in smaller classes.  US News Best Schools ranks MIHS as #8 in Washington and #527 in its National Rankings based on its students’ impressive performance: Mathematics Proficiency 86% vs. 40% state average, Reading Proficiency 95% vs. 70% state average, and College Readiness Index Rank #11 in WA.  MIHS enrollment’s demographics are: White 70%, Asian 20%, Hispanic 4%, all other 6%; and 3% of students are economically disadvantaged.

Today MIHS hosted a student-organized series of Holocaust speakers, most of them Holocaust survivors, for small groups of its 9th and 10th graders, and their presentations were held during the school’s supplemental morning “Islander Hour” outside of standard class time.  While many of the students had some background education in the Holocaust, the school’s overarching goal was to give the underclassmen an experience that will help them understand why the Holocaust is important to teach, and why it is not a topic for jokes.  My presentation to approximately 30 10th grade students was arranged by Julia Thompson, Education Program Manager of the Holocaust Center for Humanity.

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