Holocaust survivors to share stories

By Alex Gura

Three Holocaust survivors will share their stories with students and parents tonight in the I Will Remember: The Righteous Conversations Project seminar in Chalmers at 7 p.m. Students will have a chance to ask survivors about their experiences in a question and answer forum, where noted holocaust expert Michael Barenbaum will join the discussion.

The forum will be an opportunity for students and parents to speak face to face with survivors of the Holocaust, committee member Helen Lepor (Marissa ’12) said.

Holocaust survivors are aging, and the seminar was planned as a way to let students build a personal connection with the stories that the survivors share. One of the speakers at the seminar is Helen Freeman, grandmother of Jackie ’10, Jamie ’12, and Jake Feiler ’13.

“It’s really necessary to have a conversation with a survivor,” Lepor said. “Their stories inspired me to stand up for others, to not be a victim, and have helped me lead my life.”

The four heads of the project, Samara Hutman (Rebecca ’12), Sheryl Sokoloff (Zach ’07, Emma ’09, Lara ’12, Teddy ’15), Cece Feiler, (Jackie ’10, Jamie ’12, Jake ’13), and Lepor, plan to group attendees with survivors so they can continue to investigate and discover their past experiences in future workshops. Lepor hopes that students will work on projects such as a documentary about the survivors’ experiences or an art project at later dates.

While kids now are worrying about SAT grades and getting into college, Lepor says, these survivors as kids had to worry about whether or not they would survive concentration camps.

“We don’t want the Holocuast to be a footnote in kids’ minds. We want it to have an impact,” Lepor said. “We want to tell these survivors that we won’t forget them.”

The seminar was created as an offshoot of the “Remember Us” project, a much larger scale endevour, of which Hutman is president, that seeks to help commemorate the 1.5 million children that were killed in the Holocaust.

“These stories could save lives,” Lepor said. “There’s so much despair in teens right now … but if a kid knows that he met someone who got through [the Holocaust], he’ll be able to get through anything.”

Lepor also aims to demonstrate to students that they should stand up for others and “be a hero.” Drawing a parallel to those who let others “cyberbully” teenagers into suicide, Lepor hopes the seminar will address the issue of confronting injustice.

“What makes some people sacrifice their lives, their family, for others?” Lepor asked. “We want kids to be the voices of the victim, not the silent witness, and understand that they can save lives.”

Lepor hopes that teens will have a wide variety of questions that go beyond the survivor’s direct experiences for tonight’s forum.