ENSURING FUTURE GENERATIONS NEVER FORGET By Dan Shapiro
Youth Theatre is proud to have been chosen to work with the National Jewish Theater Foundation for Remembrance Readings. This work brings young actors to the stage to present readings of plays about the Holocaust.
These are shared not only with the public at large, but also directly to teachers and students throughout San Diego County where teachers bring the story to their classrooms to discuss it and allow the students to perform a miniversion of the staged reading play to create an immersive experience for the students.
Community educator Marcia Tatz-Wollner could not be more thrilled about this program. “Remembering the Holocaust is not something that should be done only once a year on Yom HaShoah, but continually. Recent studies show that 66% of millennials could not come up with the correct response to identify Auschwitz as a concentration camp or extermination camp and many do not know that the 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.”
“You really feel empathy for all the characters and it opens your eyes up to what it was like to live at that time. And it really, really makes you think about changing some things in your life to be better.” — Gibson Witz, Remembrance Reading participant
Life Changing Impact on Kids
Speaking to past student participants, it becomes clear just how impactful this program is for young people. Gibson Witz, a high school student at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, is not Jewish and had had limited exposure to the Holocaust before getting involved with Remembrance Readings. He considers his inclusion in the program to be truly life-changing. He described it as “very moving.” He added, “You really feel empathy for all the characters and it opens your eyes up to what it was like to live at that time. And it really, really makes you think about changing some things in your life to be better.”
Maital Meltzer, a high school student at San Diego Jewish Academy, grew up with rich exposure to the Holocaust sharing a house with her mother, a Jewish educator, and her father, a rabbi, but was still deeply moved by her involvement in Remembrance Readings. “Growing up you learn stories but when you’re performing it you have to step into this role, and you have to not become the character, but try and see things from their view. It’s very different from when you read something, and it’s much more powerful.”
San Diego and Beyond
Ginny Renda, an English and Drama teacher at Calavera Hills Middle School in Carlsbad, helped pilot the program. She explained, “I just feel so fortunate to be a part of this. I hope the program can go out into the community and not only be a part of my school being involved but all schools in San Diego County and nationally because this curriculum is something timeless.”
Betzy Lynch, Lawrence Family JCC CEO, expounded on Ginny’s words. “The goal is for it to become a movement by which a true formula is used to transform Holocaust education. There’s nothing more important that we can do than share this history with the world in the most personal and individualized way. And without survivors, this is the JCC’s responsibility not only to share this with ourselves, but well beyond our community.”
Next Remembrance Reading on Kristallnacht
The next opportunity for students, parents and the public at large to experience a Remembrance Reading is when JCompany Youth Theatre performs the staged reading Hannah Senesh, The Mission Home by John J. Wooten, on the evening of Kristallnacht, Tuesday November 9, 2021. All too often when we think about the Holocaust, we only think about Anne Frank. It is extremely important to know that there are many heroines who should also come to mind. Hannah Senesh is one of those heroines. Her story is one of resistance and resilience. She left Hungary for Palestine and then returned, parachuting into Yugoslavia as part of a British spy unit to save Hungarian Jews.