Legacies: High School Visits is the only program of its kind in New England. A cohort of 9th-12th graders learn about the Holocaust by meeting with a survivor four times over the course of the year to talk about life before, during, and after the war. An important component of the year is the group project where all three group members conceive of and create a meaningful tribute to their time spent together.

It is always interesting to learn what survivors tell their family members. Some talk about their experiences at length and others never mention it. Aron, a Holocaust survivor who has talked to hundreds of students, wants his future great grandchildren to know about what he went through and how he survived during the Holocaust. Aron, who was born in Poland, was subjected to gross injustices, beatings, and imprisonment in a ghetto and nine concentration camps including Auschwitz. He shared with high schoolers Josh and Jacob that he is afraid he will not be able to personally tell his story to his great grandchildren. As their final project, Josh and Jacob wrote a letter to this future generation explaining what the Nazis did, how Aron survived, and how he rebuilt his life after the war.
After the war, Ludwik received a medical degree, developed and directed the clinical and training program in Psychiatry of Developmental Disabilities at Boston Children’s Hospital, and is currently an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medial School. He has dedicated his life to teaching and saw the visits from Grace and Emily as educational opportunities. He even gave the two girls homework! Ludwik believes, “You do not forget, you do not deny but what you do is refuse to spend your life in survivor mode.” They loved the advice Ludwik gave them whenever they spoke, so Grace and Emily created a video of advice that other students could watch and learn from. This culminating project was a beautiful combination of Ludwik’s skills, dreams, and goals.

Fred, a German Holocaust survivor who survived as a young child by hiding in an orphanage, a convent, and a farm, was perfectly matched with Abby and Jordyn because they all love to cook and food holds special meaning for all three. In fact, during their visits, Fred cooked for Abby and Jordyn and then they talked while enjoying his creations. As was fitting, the three created a cookbook together that they gifted to everyone at graduation. The cookbook featured family recipes from all three of their families as well as stories about each recipe.

The goal of Legacies: High School Visits is not just to remember the past but to embrace and guide the future. We feel that all these students accomplished—and surpassed—this goal and we could not be more proud!

If you are a high school student who would like to participate in the program for the 2016-2017 school year, please apply online. All high school students regardless of religion are invited to apply. For more information, please contact me at erast@jfcsboston.org or 781-693-1201.

Elyse Rast is the Manager of Outreach and Education for Schechter Holocaust Services. For the past 20 years Elyse has taught children ranging in ages from 3-18 and specializes in Holocaust education. Currently, Elyse runs Jewish teenage empowerment classes at Prozdor Hebrew High School and is working on her PhD in Education at Lesley University. Elyse has two kids and two cats and lives in Westwood.

Originally posted on the JF&CS blog.