Holocaust survivor and award-winning author Susanne Reyto detailed her experience as a child during World War II and answered questions about modern anti-Semitism in a Community Flex Time hosted by the Jewish Club April 23.
Born in Hungary just before the German invasion, Reyto and her family were faced with many challenges, including malnutrition, unhealthy living conditions and blatant anti-Semitism. Even after the concentration camps were liberated, Reyto’s family was imprisoned for attempting to escape Hungary and she continued to come across anti-Semetic behavior. Despite all of her struggles, Reyto said maintaining a positive attitude has been essential in life.
“No matter how bad bad is, there is a way to think optimistically and think of a better tomorrow,” Reyto said. “For me, the cup is never half empty. It’s always half full. You always have to have hope and optimism for the future.”
In a Q&A session moderated by Jewish Club leaders Hailey Rothbart ’21 and Gracie Klein ’21, Reyto said the most effective way to counter modern anti-Semetic behavior is through spreading factual information.
“Part of [addressing anti-Semitism] is education,” Reyto said. “Education for the Jewish students to stand up and fight and education for the non-Jewish people, who are perhaps the haters, because they don’t know.”
The event took place during the 50-minute Community Flex Time period
Members of the school’s Jewish community responded to Reyto’s visit. Junior leader of the Harvard Westlake Jewish Family Alliance (HWJFA) Gabe Glassman ’22 said he was eager to hear Reyto’s story.
“My biggest takeaway from the even today is that the Holocaust was more recent than we perceive it to be,” Glassman said. “The fact that Reyto experienced what she experienced first hand and is still alive today to share it with us is amazing.”
HWJFA student board member Kayla Graiwer ’23 said she appreciated Reyto’s presentation and the school’s effort to put focus on the Jewish community.
“I think it’s important that Harvard-Westlake took the time to bring in a Holocaust survivor. There are sadly so few left and [there has been] a rise in anti-Semitism recently,” Graiwer said. “For me, [Reyto’s visit] was a big deal because my great grandparents and grandparents were both survivors and victims to the Nazi regime during World War II.”