Encountering Survivors Program
Connecting generations to "never forget"
Encountering Survivors Program
Tammy Kaye, Program Coordinator
The Jewish Federation’s Encountering Survivors program connects small groups of high school students with Holocaust survivors or children of Holocaust survivors in Southeastern Connecticut.
Through a series of small group meetings exploring their childhood, WWII experiences and liberation, students learn the survivors’ personal stories and experiences and bear witness to their oral histories. The small group meetings create opportunities for students to increase knowledge, enable understanding and develop personal connections that foster empathy.
The opening program for the 2017-18 school year featured a presentation by Jerry Fischer, JFEC Executive Director, giving the students an overview of historical information surrounding the Holocaust, providing them with pertinent background ahead of their meetings with the survivors and children of survivors.
Participating schools during the 2017-18 school year were Ledyard High School, Lyme-Old Lyme High School, Old Saybrook High School, and Waterford High School.
The students from Lyme-Old Lyme High School were so moved by their program experience that they arranged a trip to Poland where they visited Bedzin, the hometown of Sigmund Strochlitz, the Holocaust survivor whose story they were learning from his daughter, Romana Strochlitz Primus. They also visited Auschwitz and Birkenau camps that Romana’s father, Sigmund, and mother, Rose, survived.
Culminating Projects and Program for 2017-18
Students create projects honoring the survivors and highlighting the most impactful insights from their program experience. Students presented their projects at a culminating program at Lyme-Old Lyme High School attended by all program participants.
In developing their presentations, students were encouraged to think about how they can promote change and advocacy in their school and greater communities as well as examine their own responsibilities in creating a just society.
Ben Cooper, WWII combat medic and liberator of Dachau concentration camp, shared his personal experiences with the students, complete with photos and artifacts from the time period. Following the closing program, Encountering Survivors was featured in a front-page article in The Day.
The students and teachers visited New York City for a day dedicated to enhancing their knowledge of the Holocaust and of Jewish culture. The day began at the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, where the group embarked on a guided interactive tour exploring Jewish life, heritage and traditions as well as an in-depth discussion of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and its devastating impact. In addition to a discussion about Hilter and his destructive tactics and propaganda, the group also learned stories of those who resisted and showed tremendous courage during a dark time. The group also viewed an engagement ring belonging to Henny Simon, one of our community’s survivors which she donated to the museum, a poignant reminder that during this catastrophic period, there were also stories of love and hope. The day continued with a visit to Katz’s deli where everyone had the opportunity to sample Jewish foods.
Students participated in our community Holocaust Commemoration, reading narrations during the candle lighting program.
The resource center offers speakers to area schools to promote Holocaust education. Joe Biber shared his parents’ story of survival with students at Ledyard High School in multiple sections of their Modern Genocide class.
The Resource Center maintains extensive resources and materials pertaining to the Holocaust and human rights.