On Tuesday evening, at the final hours of Yom HaShoah, the teens of Hebrew High along with their parents commemorated Yom HaShoah at the Arizona Jewish Historical Society to experience their Holocaust exhibit Stories of Survival and have the chance to hear stories firsthand of life and death in the Shoah.

“When I saw that Yom HaShoah ended on a Tuesday (the day Hebrew High meets), I knew we needed to do something special to honor it.  I was so grateful that the wonderful people of the museum agreed to open their doors to us on an evening and allow us to learn together about the experiences of the Shoah,” shared Rabbi Aviva, principle of Hebrew High and Associate Director of the BJE.

Dr. Ettie Zilber presented her parents’ miraculous story of survival, along with photos, videos and brilliant story telling. She was able to share the experiences in a way that made us all want more. “[The world is full of Holocaust deniers and minimizers, and our job, now YOUR job, is to help fix this, and let everyone know the truth,]” charged Dr. Ettie.

Teens were then taken on a tour of the exhibit, led by Mary Page and Tony Fusco, who engaged with everyone and met the teens and their parents at their level.  This team was so accommodating, passionate, and helped our teens recognize how much there is learn about the Holocaust and its impact. It was during the tour that it became clear of the necessity of being there that night. “How many of you know who Dr. Mengele was?” asked Mary. Not one teen knew. “It was a lightbulb moment for me,” said Rabbi Aviva. “We must remember that every generation needs time to process the horrors and the tragedies of the Shoah, and these details can be easily lost if we don’t spend time teaching them.”

The highlight of the tour was the incredible interactive technology featuring Oskar Knoblauch, a Holocaust survivor. When asked a question, he is able to answer you and share all about his experiences and life.  We didn’t have time to do the Virtual Reality tours, but many students are looking forward to returning to try it.

At the end of the evening, Rabbi Aviva circled everyone up for a closing song and reflection.  “We learn about the Shoah for many reasons,” she said, “and specifically to remind us of the miraculousness of our lives today.  We are here.  Let’s allow the memories of those whose lives were tragically taken be fuel for us to live life fully, proudly as Jews, determined to build a better world.”

Everyone had a chance to share one word they are taking with them as they left that night.  Hope, courage, compassion, and love were just a few spoken.

“Tonight was incredibly important. Thank you for this,” said Avah Montgomery, a HH teen on the leadership council. Thank you to our families for coming out and again to the team at AZJHS.  We all needed this. You can learn more about AZJHS at their website www.AZJHS.org

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