The children carried compact notebooks from table to table, gripping tiny pencils as they made their way around the synagogue’s ballroom. Each table they visited bore a label: the Righteous Gentile, the Rabbi of the Lost Scroll, Anne Frank. Each of these characters, played by a congregant, recounted to the children his or her role in the Holocaust.
This is how Glen Cove’s Congregation Tifereth Israel commemorated Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, last Sunday. Education Director Lisa Aamodt developed the interactive program as a way to educate the younger generation about the genocide of six million Jews during World War II.
“The children are the ambassadors for these stories,” Aamodt said. “As generations go on, more and more people are forgetting the Holocaust ever happened, and for them to understand that and carry on these stories is important.”
During the program, children interviewed congregants who portrayed people associated with the Holocaust, including a few ancestors of those who survived. Rabbi Irwin Huberman shared the story of the Rabbi of the Lost Scroll, who refused to leave the torah and his temple behind as Nazi troops invaded war-torn Poland. The handwritten scripture Huberman held tightly to his chest had survived the invasion, and was recovered by the congregation in the early 1970s.
“There is a twin message to the commemoration,” Huberman said. “We look backward and remember those who have no one to remember them, and we also teach our children how important it is to stand up to racism so this type of thing doesn’t happen in the future.”
Sea Cliff resident and congregant Cathi Turow portrayed Anne Frank, the Holocaust victim whose diary entries gained her posthumous fame around the world. Turow said she remembered hearing stories from her in-laws about living in the labor camps. “It became real to me, too,” she said.
Turow, a writer by profession, offered her storytelling talents to the program. She admitted that she felt a connection to Frank’s writings — experiences that have survived the test of time. “The stories are being presented in multiple ways — in writing and paintings and music,” Turow said, “and you feel the expression of those feelings in modern times.”
Ten-year-old congregants Grant Katz and Josef Hunter spent the evening interviewing the characters portrayed in the program. Through each narrative, they were able to learn something new. “It’s good that we get to learn about this as kids, so we can remember it, even though it was a bad time,” Grant said. “Just because it’s bad doesn’t mean you should forget it. Jews have a record of being resilient, and we always try to stay on the positive side of things.”
Josef’s great-grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and his grandmother, Claudine Wizenberg, said that every generation that came after her parents’ was a miracle. “My mother was hidden as a child in the south of France,” she said. “Years later, we went back to visit the convent where she was hidden.”
As Grant listened to the stories of his ancestors, a gleaming appreciation shone in his eyes.