Alpert JFS’ client, Marie, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor, recently met with a group of students and teachers at The Greene School in West Palm Beach to provide an experiential learning program, complete with a presentation of family photos taken before she was deported from her native Brussels, Belgium to France. There, she was put in a concentration camp, saved from imprisonment by the French Underground, and hidden in both a nunnery and farmhouse. After the war, Marie emigrated to the U.S.
Despite the trauma that still infuses her heart and mind, Marie provides students with modern-day lessons in the history of the Holocaust. She shares her story to keep indifference to anti-Semitism, contempt, hatred, and racism at bay.
Many survivors still have overwhelming feelings of fear, yet the fear of the facts of what happened during the Holocaust fading from memory is even scarier! This is why they speak out, sharing personal stories about their Holocaust experiences with young people in the Greater Palm Beaches. Education, after all, is the key to making sure that the horrors of the Holocaust are never repeated!
The ability to tell their stories in a safe space provides survivors with validation of their experience, as well as socialization opportunities, while offering students the chance to learn from first-hand accounts, and ask questions. The story details of each survivor may differ, but all have a common thread of painful loss: of name, individuality, family, and life as they knew it.
While living with the pain of the past, Holocaust survivors get pleasure from speaking to student groups. Alpert JFS case managers and teachers help prepare survivors and students for the interactions.
“The importance of Holocaust education is clear,” said Alpert JFS CEO Marc Hopin. “A recent research study from the Pew Research Center found that half of America’s adults were unaware of basic facts about the Holocaust; the number of Jews who perished, or how Hitler and the Nazis came to power. The impact of our survivors’ sharing testimonies has had an impact on students, whose empathy helps to promote healing among the trauma victims.”
We hope that the students whose lives our Holocaust survivors touch will continue to share their message after they are gone.
A dedicated team of seven staffers at Alpert JFS are dedicated to serving Holocaust survivors, providing more than 220,000 hours of in-home care through funding we receive from The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), along with assistance navigating the Reparations Benefit Process, case management and care coordination, counseling and support groups, companionship and transportation, and events that foster socialization and relief from isolation.
For information on Alpert JFS’ Holocaust Survivors Assistance Program, visit https://www.alpertjfs.org/for-seniors-holocaust-survivors-assistance/ or call 561-684-1991.