Holocaust Education Week: Reflections from Queen’s Hillel

Holocaust Education Week: Reflections from Queen’s Hillel

Queen’s Hillel hosted Holocaust Education Week that brought a variety of events to campus. One moment that stood out to me was during our 78 Years Later: A Conversation about Remembrance event, where two Holocaust Survivors, Reny Friedman and David Moskovic, shared their experiences at Queen’s University.

As I stood to the side of the room watching Mr. Moskovic and Mrs. Friedman individually share their experiences during the Shoah, I was touched to see how attentively the 50 people in the room (on the evening of a snowstorm, no less!) were listening.

During the last half of the evening both survivors were brought to the centre of the room to answer questions together, and their witty banter with one another stayed with me since then. The overwhelming response I received from students and community members in attendance was how moved they were by the experience and how unusual it was to see two Holocaust survivors in conversation with one another. A student explained to me afterwards that they hadn’t seen two survivors share the space like this before and that it felt different from other lecture series because of how they shared the floor together. Mr. Moskovic and Mrs. Friedman had very different experiences during the Holocaust but they were bound together in camaraderie having gone through an utterly horrific event and yet, both had managed to create meaningful lives after the Shoah.

In a time where it is becoming increasingly rare to have one, let alone two, Holocaust survivors in the room, I cannot help but feel that those of us lucky enough to be in attendance, were given an incredible gift of witnessing their stories. Being in the room with a Holocaust survivor means we are prioritizing space for them to share their experiences. We will be the last generation to say that we were in the presence of Holocaust survivors. Every time we step into such settings, we are bearing witness to history and become the new memory keepers. It is our burden and our privilege.

Holocaust Education Week on campus is a student driven initiative, as they lead the planning and strategy for the week. Members of our Hillel student executive board had personal ties to the two survivors who spoke and were instrumental in inviting them to Queen’s University. Students had the chance to shape the type of programming Queen’s Hillel brought to campus, giving our students ownership to offer Jewish experiences and learning to their peers.

Holocaust education is one way that Hillel Ontario is able to encourage university students to grapple with the past as a way to work towards a better future. It is my hope that with opportunities like this, students involved with Hillel will continue to carve out a space for themselves within the Jewish community, both at university and long after they leave school.

With initiatives like Holocaust Education Week on university campuses the past will never quite leave us, but nor should it, as what happened to us can inform how we go forth into the world. We carry the weight of telling our truths and our histories while also ensuring that “Never Again” is more than words; it is an action for Jewish and other marginalized people to work towards creating a better, kinder world, and our Hillel students will shape our Jewish future.

Written by: Jemma Kaczanowicz

Holocaust Education Week 2019: Keeping Survivors Memories Alive

Holocaust Education Week 2019: Keeping Survivors Memories Alive

Written by: Sarah Mandel 

Earlier this month, Queen’s Hillel hosted its annual Holocaust Education Week. This year, we were fortunate enough to have a total of three survivors visit our campus to share their stories. Being able to hear their testimonies first hand is such a privilege, and we are so thankful for the survivors who took the time to engage in meaningful conversation with students here at Queen’s.

The first to visit was Jochebed Katan, a child Holocaust survivor, who joined us for Shabbat dinner. Jochebed was born in Nazi-occupied Holland, where she was immediately given up to another family who hid her and kept her safe for the duration of the war. After sharing her story with us, Jochebed went on to speak about her important mission: defying hatred. She asked us to help her by accepting everyone for who they are, regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexuality and anything else that deems them “different”. Although anti-Semitism and hatred alike still exist, we must do everything we can to combat it. It was a beautiful way to spend Shabbat, commemorate the Shoah, and most importantly, honour Jochebed.

The following Monday, we were visited by Holocaust survivors, David Moskovic and Reny Friedman. David was taken to Auschwitz at just 14 years old. Not long after arriving, he was required to walk nearly 10 kilometers to a work camp called Buna, where he worked as a brick layer for nine months. He was then forced on a death march, where he marched for three days straight without breaks and food. After surviving this horrific march, David was taken to Buchenwald on a train so crammed he had to sit directly on top of another prisoner’s head. Each day in Buchenwald, the guards would take hundreds of prisoners past the camp gates, force them to dig their own graves, and shoot them. One day, they took David there and he knew if he passed through the gates, he would never return. David cleverly decided to drop to the ground and was able to escape his death, since the guards reached their quota of prisoners who passed through and sent the rest back. Despite the hardships he faced during the war, David now lives a happy life and always looks to help others, recently aiding a Syrian family in need.

Reny was a hidden child during the war. In 1942, the Underground placed Reny in a convent in France, where she lived for around two and a half years. She fit in nicely with the other Catholic girls and was kept safe. She was so comfortable there that when her father came to pick her up after liberation, she did not want to go with him. She did not recognize him, nor did she even speak the same language as him. After promising he would bring her back, she finally agreed to go with her father. It took many years for Reny to realize she was not a young Catholic girl anymore. Even to this day, she still has her cross and vows to never forget her time in the convent.

Reflecting back on this year’s Holocaust education week, I think about how my generation will be the last to have the luxury of hearing firsthand survivor testimonies. Given this reality, we must take on the role of sharing the stories we hear with generations to come and ensure these atrocities do not happen again.

Welcome Back!

Welcome Back!

Written By: Jemma Kaczanowicz

Welcome Gael’s!

As the Program Coordinator for Queen’s Hillel, I’m excited to welcome you to another school year!

Hillel is a unique organization within the Jewish university experience. We offer space for students of all backgrounds to explore their Jewish identity and community on their own terms. Whether this is through socializing, engaging with others about Israel, working with Hillel staff and student exec to come up with innovative programming, or celebrating Jewish rituals, there is a place for everyone at Queen’s Hillel.

During the 2019-2020 school year, Queen’s Hillel will be offering a variety of programming from Shabbat dinners, Holocaust Education Week, welcoming special guests to campus, participating in the second year of Out of Sync, and more! I want to hear from YOU about the type of events you would like for us to bring to Kingston, so please reach out to me with your suggestions.

Becoming involved with Hillel at Queen’s University is an opportunity to explore your Jewish community while at university. Hillel is FOR students so, without your participation and input, we can not be nearly as successful!  So please reach out if you are interested in helping to make Queen’s Hillel fantastic this year!

I can always be found out and about on campus, tabling at events, hosting programs, or stop by our NEW club space in the JDUC Room 221. As I am still relatively new to Kingston, I am taking every opportunity I can to speak with Queen’s students to learn about what they would like to see on campus, to hear your Jewish story or to have you tell me all of your favourite places to grab coffee!  Please reach out to me at jemma.kaczanowicz@hillelontario.org if you would like to chat.

I wish you the best as you start another year of learning, growth, and exciting opportunities.