Posted by Elyse Rast
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.
Leon, a Holocaust survivor, told high schoolers Zak and Zach how accomplished his life was after the war and how nobody believed that a young boy who witnessed so much tragedy, largely by himself, would grow up to be an inventor with numerous patents. Leon was hidden in a hole in a farm for 2½ years after his mother and siblings were transported to a death camp. Zak and Zach were blown away by his story, his perseverance, and his professional contributions so they created a video highlighting each item that Leon created. They even shared a picture of Leon’s Cape house, which he designed and built entirely by himself.
Shira and Leslie loved meeting Aggie, a Holocaust survivor, who was also very accomplished but in an entirely different way. She was one of the few survivors of Auschwitz and she shared details about this, her family, and her childhood before and after the war with Shira and Leslie. Aggie is from Florida but moved to Framingham to be close to her large family. Aggie loved participating in Legacies: High School Visits and cherished each visit in the same way she cherishes each and every one of her family members. She shared how grateful she feels that her family has brought goodness and compassion into the world and believes Shira and Leslie are honorary grandchildren who she lovingly welcomed into her joyous family. In order to help Aggie have a visual tribute of what she loves most, Shira and Lesley created a stunning photo collage of Aggie’s family, her greatest accomplishment.
The goal of Legacies: High School Visits is to enhance historical lessons by helping students and survivors connect in meaningful ways. Many people have had the opportunity to hear about what happened to people during the war but few have received intimate details about life before and after. We appreciate that Leon and Aggie were able to share their stories and show this cohort of students some of the ways it means to thrive after trauma.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.