Two weeks ago, the Guelph Hillel hosted its annual Holocaust Education Week (HEW).
Even as a student who had been actively involved with HEW for the past three years, I had no idea of what to expect this year. After a year-and-half of living in a virtual world, I didn’t know what the response or turnout would be from our Guelph community. With the recent rise in antisemitsim and Holocaust denial, I was nervous about a flare up of tensions as a result of a visibly Jewish presence on campus that week.
Volunteering at the cattle car exhibit was an incredibly profound experience. I was privileged to have personal conversations with students, faculty, and community members about their perspectives after experiencing the immersive exhibit. For many, this exhibit was the very first time they had learned about the atrocities of the Holocaust. By the end of the week, more than 400 students and faculty stepped into a replica cattle car. To put this into perspective, that is 400 new voices responsible to carry forward the stories of the Holocaust.
As part of the week, we gathered online to hear survivor Sol Nayman’s testimony. We were so fortunate to come together to listen to Sol’s story; as we are amongst the last generation to hear first-hand testimonies and recollections from this dark period in history.
To conclude the week, we gathered for a traditional Shabbat Dinner. For me, looking around the room gave me the chills. Seeing 150 community members from different backgrounds and faiths sharing a meal to celebrate the light, unity, and community demonstrated the power of humankind coming together as one.
Co-President, Guelph Hillel
Here is what students had to say after Sol’s testimony:
“Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I went on the march of the living with you, I wasn’t on your bus but I remember hearing your story at Treblinka and being incredibly moved by your message of love. We are so lucky to be given the chance to hear your story. Thank you!” – Jessi
“Thank you, Sol, for this gift of your story. Thank you Hillel for this important week.” – Sonya
“Thank you so much for sharing your story Sol, hearing it tonight and on MOL 2016 while being on your bus has been a huge honour. The March was extremely meaningful and impactful and I feel very lucky to have gotten to learn and spend time with you.” – Ariella
“Thank you Sol. I was on your bus in 2019 for the March of the living and experiencing the March and Treblinka. Hearing your story again and learning more of your story was very powerful. You are incredible for continuing to tell your story and going on the March of the Living.” – Rory
“Thank you so much for giving us your time tonight! It is such a privilege to be able to hear firsthand from survivors such as yourself.” – Emma