Ten students in Madison have been meeting with Holocaust survivors nationwide, by Zoom, as part of Chabad’s Stories That Live program.
Chabad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers the program in Madison. Stories That Live is a program that connects students with Holocaust survivors. Started at a Chabad that serves students in Pennsylvania, the programming is meant to help cement the legacies of Holocaust survivors.
This is the second year of Stories That Live at the UW-Madison campus.
“The goal is to help the Jewish community and help the Jewish students, and through them the broader community, remember the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Mendel Matusof. “The essence of the Holocaust is each individual survivor. Each of them had their own stories.”
The capstone of the program has the students involved produce a creative work, either video, slideshow, or other format, to discuss the life of the Holocaust survivor they were connected with and what they learned from the experience. Students involved in the program will present their work at a Chabad event open to the public. The project presentations will take place on April 23. See JewishUwMadison.com for more information.
Chabad of UW-Madison has been giving the students support, from having dinners to discussing presentation ideas. Personalized sensitivity training is offered to help ensure good experiences for both the students and the Holocaust survivors.
“It’s been a really, really special experience,” said sophomore student Geri Ikelheimer. “We’re probably one of the last generations who will be able to talk to them [Holocaust survivors].” Ikelheimer is working on her own project with Holocaust survivor Kathy Gross. They meet once a week for around an hour to an hour and a half discussing Gross’s life during and after the Holocaust in chronological order.
“The fact that I’m getting it recorded, getting it on paper and just remembering it myself means I can tell my future kids my stories, they can tell their kids. I’m passing it down. It really is about the stories that live,” said second-year student Marley Comito. Comito’s project has connected her with Edmond Silber, a Holocaust survivor who now currently lives in Canada. “I feel honored,” said Comito when discussing how she feels to be involved with the program.
Ikelheimer has felt a personal connection to the program and the Holocaust survivor she has been speaking with: “She [Kathy Gross] has such brilliance and optimism about life that is so inspirational. She has been through one of the worst events in our history and is still able to come out of it and have a positive outlook on life.”
Once the projects are completed, they will be uploaded to StoriesThatLive.org so that the public may view them, according to Matusof.
Stories that Live is part of the Leon & Florence Perahia Holocaust Education Initiative at the UW-Madison Chabad and was made possible through an additional grant from the Seed the Dream Foundation.