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 three times over the course of the year and creating a meaningful project together.
Hannah and Aviva instantly connected with Leon Rubinstein, a Holocaust survivor who at age 12 was forced to live in a ghetto after his older brother and younger sister were killed. While in the ghetto, he had to dig mass graves. Leon's father found a Christian family who would hide him but conditions were so scary he had to live underground. When his eldest sister found him after the war, he learned that his parents and their other five siblings had perished. In 1951, Leon immigrated to Israel and served in the army. During the Legacies: High School Visits graduation, Leon said, "It's hard to describe what it was like at the age of 85 to have contact with these two beautiful girls, but it makes me feel good at the end of my life to see children like this, so giving, so kind."
Hannah and Aviva were inspired to capture Leon's memories in a time capsule that included several of the inventions Leon created after the war (along with the patents and instructions), photos, a flash drive of the audio of their first meeting, and a book Leon wrote about his experiences during the war.
Aviva shared the following remarks at the graduation ceremony:
"Working with Leon on our time capsule is an experience Hannah and I will never forget. Throughout these few months we have really gotten to know Leon and were fortunate enough to have him let us into his life. Every meeting we had with Leon was amazing. He would always captivate us with all of the amazingly inspiring stories he had to tell.
"This experience is so important to Hannah and me. We were able to find out so much more about the Holocaust we did not know before. We got to hear stories right from a survivor about his own experiences. During meetings Leon would show us photos, tell us about his own experience, his family, and all of his thoughts and feelings. Hannah and I feel so lucky to have Leon as the survivor we got to work with. He really let us into his home and was so kind. Leon was one of the most amazing guys we have ever met. He showed us all his inventions and was nice enough to let us put some in the time capsule.
"These meetings were something Hannah and I always looked forward to; we know that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and feel so lucky to be a part of it!"
If you are a high school student who would like to participate in the program for the 2015-2016 school year, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-693-1201. Applications are due by October 12, 2015.
JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services is made possible by the generous support of the Claims Conference and the Dorot Foundation.
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.