Mr. Philip Kirschner, Esq.,
Chairman, New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education and
President, New Jersey Business and Industry Association
Dr. Paul B. Winkler,
Executive Director, New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education
Imagine, Holocaust survivors attending their own special senior prom, participating in a high school graduation program, sitting for a personalized portrait, participating in an adoption program, a writing seminar a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony and lunch program. These are a few of the activities Holocaust survivors and students participated in during the past school year (2004/05) that they were denied during their own teenage years.
About 1½ years ago, the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education made a decision to actively support, encourage and initiate activities that would bring students and survivors together in meaningful, personal and educational settings. As stated by Commission Chairperson, Philip Kirschner, "when students interact closely with a survivor, the level of caring, learning and understanding is unmatched and the lesson will impact the students all their lives in a positive way".
The state network of Holocaust Centers and concerned individuals in New Jersey were contacted about the decision and commitment of the Commission to encourage this activity, and as a result, many of the activities listed were initiated and implemented.
The plan for the future is to present these ideas to schools and Holocaust Centers for replication and or initiation of new ideas.
Each of the activities listed below allowed students to interact with the survivors in very meaningful experiences.
Mary Vasquez, a teacher at Millburn Middle School, and Barbara Wind of the Metro West Federation Holocaust Resource Center initiated the idea after the survivors commented that they never participated in their senior high school dance. The activity was a cooperative endeavor of the students, survivors, community, school and Holocaust Center. Students and survivors worked together on all committees and details in planning the dance under the guidance of the teacher Ms. Vasquez. The prom was held at a local catering hall and was attended by over 250 survivors and guests.
This program was a cooperative program between the Atlantic County Technical High School and the Holocaust Resource Center of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Survivors received certificates of accomplishment for work in their chosen field. Prior to their receiving the awards survivors were paired with students who were learning similar fields to the survivor's life experiences. The students and survivor developed closer relationships through the activities which included lunches, classroom and work settings and culminated in the graduation ceremony. Some of the fields represented included:
- Photo Journalist/Newspaper Columnist/Artist/Educator
- Chicken Farmer/Hotel Owner and Operator
- Hotel and Restaurant Owner/Operator and Wig Maker
- Interior Decorator/Court Room Interpreter/Educator/Author
- Wholesale Merchandise (dry goods) Owner
- Home Furnishings and Gift Store Owner
- Medical Secretary/Author/Speaker
This was a cooperative project of the Jewish Family Service Café Europa Program and survivors in their areas. Students were invited to the lunch program and actively engaged in conversation during lunch. Many of the conversations led to survivors attending the student's classes and follow-up conversations.
Students of the West Windsor School District journalism classes were grouped with survivors for the purpose of hearing and writing their stories. The activity continued over six months with individual discussions and many follow-up activities. The student's writings of the survivor's stories and their own reflections were put together in a bound edition which was distributed at a culminating activity.
Ms. Doreen Wertz of the Howell Township High School initiated an idea to pair her art students with survivors for the purpose of drawing their portraits. After an initial meeting where much conversation occurred, the students began the work of doing the portraits which concluded with a program where the portraits were unveiled, the stories of the survivor's were presented in written form and a video production of the process was presented.
Adopt a Survivor
A project designed and initiated by Irving Roth who stated the following objectives of the experience:
The objective of this program is to transfer the life experiences of a Holocaust survivor to a student by taking a joint journey through the life of the survivor. By this personal journey the student becomes one with the survivor absorbing his life, spirit and soul. He will be able to represent the survivor and tell his story with accuracy and feeling to any audience for at least another half century.
This project was initiated in many areas of the state and has paired up hundreds of survivors with students who promise to tell the survivors stories in the year 2045 (100th anniversary of liberation). The activities provide opportunity for the students to really get to know the survivor on a very personal level. Many have included visitation to homes, coming together for celebrations and general discussions.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Programs
This activity has been conducted by many synagogues with the survivor in their area to introduce a survivor who did not participate in their own Bar/Bat Mitzvah with a soon to be Bar/Bat Mitzvah student. It also took the form of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah being combined with a Holocaust victim whose birth date is the same as the young person being Bar/Bat Mitzvahed.
Training - This project will
pair students with small groups of
survivors to learn about the
computer but to specifically track
families, names, towns, etc. through
the United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum research files.
Anyone with questions or interested in initiating any of the activities described and/or implementing new ideas, should contact:
Dr. Paul B. Winkler
New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education
P.O. Box 500
Trenton, NJ 08625
The core mission of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education is to promote Holocaust education in the State of New Jersey. On a continual basis, the Commission shall survey the status of Holocaust/Genocide Education; design, encourage nd promote the implementation of Holocaust and genocide education and awareness; provide programs in New Jersey; and coordinate designated events that will provide appropriate memorialization of the Holocaust on a regular basis throughout the state. The Commission will provide assistance and advice to the public and private schools and will meet with county and local school officials, and other interested public and private organizations, to assist with the study of the Holocaust and genocide.
We invite you to find out more, whether you require Group or Company specific information, simply explore the site using the links to the left.
Phil Kirschner, Esq.
Dr. Paul B. Winkler
State of New Jersey
Commission on Holocaust Education
P.O. Box 500
Trenton, NJ 08625