The Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) in White Plains will expand its effort to provide the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors an outlet to preserve and share their family’s story of horror and survival.
As the number of Holocaust survivors continue to dwindle, the HHREC has made it a priority to ensure the survivors’ stories continue to live on through their family.
“Since the survivors are getting on in years, it’s going to come to a point where they won’t be available to tell their stories,” said the center’s Executive Director Millie Jasper. “We felt very strongly that the second and third generation should learn how to preserve their family’s Holocaust story to tell their story.”
The organization’s 18-week Safekeeping Stories Workshop, which will begin Jan. 8, comes to Mount Kisco for the first time at Bet Torah. It will give the attendees the necessary support, comfort and education to share their experiences.
With the organization focused on sending speakers to nearly every public and private school in Westchester, Jasper emphasized how important it is to ensure history is kept alive and students know that the Holocaust really happened.
“It’s important that we tell these stories to kids and put a face to it so when they’re older they can say they heard a survivor’s story and know that it’s true,” Jasper said. “We’re trying to do something that’s impactful for many years to come.”
With the workshop producing more than two dozen graduates from Larchmont Temple, where the program has been held since its inception, the HHREC will kick off the new year expanding its efforts to Bet Torah and the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Tarrytown.
The workshop consists of 90-minute sessions where professionals teach participants how to save their family’s Holocaust history using the practice of “story keeping,” a method that makes it easy chronicle. Jasper said participants receive valuable insight from workshop discussions and learn how to assemble fragments and slices of their family’s past into one coherent story.
Their family’s story can then be preserved for this and future generations, she noted.
Jasper said the first 12 weeks are dedicated to sharing, sifting through facts and events to discover the stories that matter most and learning how to effectively write and compile them. Participants will then spend the last six weeks of the program presenting and perfecting their story to share with others.
While the workshop ensures history won’t be forgotten, Jasper said it also helps create relationships with those who have had a similar experience living with a Holocaust survivor.
“The people who join the workshop have all grown up with a Holocaust survivor and they find they have a lot in common with each other and strong bonds are made,” Jasper said. “They learn more about their parents’ stories because there’s a lot of overlap. This is a wonderful way to get together to talk, to meet, to learn and to share.”
Jasper added that regular meetings with survivors and their family members are also held outside these workshops by the HHREC. She said sharing their stories has allowed those to overcome their own difficulties and trauma.
“It’s inspiring that they could survive so much,” Jasper said. “It’s inspirational.”
The Safekeeping Stories Workshop will be held most Tuesdays starting next week through June 4 at Bet Torah, located at 60 Smith Ave. in Mount Kisco from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Enrollment will be opened at the Jewish Community Center in Tarrytown at the end of January. The fee to participate is $360.