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Participating in the JFR’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program

On Saturday, March 5, Matthew Sackstein became a Bar Mitzvah and honored living rescuer Knud Christiansen by participating in the JFR’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program.  Matthew participated in the JFR’s invitation program, where each guest received a specialized invitation that honored Knud Christiansen’s legacy and explained the mission of the JFR.  More information about the JFR’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program can be found here. 

 Matthew also had the rare privilege of meeting Knud prior to his Bar Mitzvah, which was very meaningful for Matthew and his family.

Matthew Sackstein and rescuer Knud Christiansen, meeting before Matthew's Bar Mitzvah.


The story was also featured in  Newsday, where Matthew’s participation in the JFR Bar/Bat Mitzvah program and his meeting with Knud were highlighted.  Read the story here.

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Hearing from our students: Excerpts from the 2010 Annual Dinner essays written by high school students

Each year we invite schools from the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area to attend our annual dinner through our New York-New Jersey Schools Dinner Program.  Schools bring 8 juniors or seniors who are studying or who have studied the Holocaust.  We invite a variety of schools: public and private, Jewish and Catholic day, special needs and charter schools.  Students are required to write a brief essay after the dinner, sharing one aspect of their experience that they found moving or insightful.  We received outstanding essays from all of our schools.  Below are a few excerpts from exceptional essays – their words remind us why it is so important to educate the next generation about the Holocaust in general and rescue in particular. 

“…this dinner shed a new light on the Holocaust that I was blind to beforehand.” – Ethan, the Heschel School

 “Though I’ve read quite a few books and have watched movies that are related to this tragic event in history, I never really understood what it must’ve been like for the Jews living in Europe at the time.  However, that changed on the evening I attended the JFR’s ceremony…” – Sang-A, Stuyvesant High School

“I have never been moved to the point of tears when hearing, reading, or learning about the Holocaust.  That all changed on Tuesday, November 30….There is no way to fully explain the extent to which Mr. Misiuna has motivated and moved me.  At the very least, he made me more determined than ever to continue to do community service and care for others.” – Anna, the Heschel School

“That evening was truly wonderful, I learned that when people have the courage to do what’s right they make a wonderful impact in someone else’s life.” – Erica, The Churchill School

“Understanding all the risks these rescuers took is something we hear and appreciate, but it is difficult to actually understand what it entails.  Witnessing the reunion helped me understand the reality of righteous gentiles.” – Mia, the Heschel School

 “Wladyslaw Misiuna’s story is a testament to the fact that apathy and cruelty are not a given.  Acting as a bystander is a choice that the individual makes, just as being an upstander is a personal choice.”  – Emma, the Heschel School 

“It was a pure, untainted moment, when Mr. Misuna and Mrs. Marmurek walked onto the podium together.  Although it took more than a few seconds for them to reach the microphone, the clapping never wavered.  Every single person in the room had gotten to a point beyond their own ego, a point of reverence and respect. The dinner managed to move people to genuine admiration.”  – Massye, SAR Academy

“Marmurek and Misiuna embraced one another as though they were two halves of a magnet; it was beyond words.  Marmurek beheld the man that gave her life, the man that created more than ten lives as a result of the rescue.” – Ilana, the Heschel School

 “The school teacher honoree, Mr. Grimes, made me feel relieved that the legacy of the Holocaust will live on in schools throughout the U.S.A….Seeing Mr. Grimes get an award for…his class on the Holocaust made me feel good.  I now know that people everywhere don’t want to let the Holocaust be forgotten.” – Ben, SAR Academy

“Being a student of a modern-orthodox [Jewish] school, it was nice to see that people of many different beliefs can share some fundamental and universal values.” – Adin, SAR Academy

“Attending the dinner was an especially unique experience for me because I am a Muslim student.  In another part of the world, Muslims and Jews are constantly fighting each other in an endless cycle.  But as I found out at the dinner, religion does not have to play a role in helping people.  Christians decided to help Jews because they inherently knew that it was the right thing to do.  And if you see someone who needs help, you should help them no matter what race or religion they are.  It could be a Jew helping a Muslim, a Christian helping a Jew, black helping white, or anything.”  – Mahtab, Stuyvesant High School

“…I will never be able to justify the suffering of those who experienced the Holocaust, but I have learned the importance of recognizing beauty, even in the face of incomprehensible suffering.” – Jason, SAR Academy

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Knitting for Rescuers

The JFR’s charity knitting project is off to a great start! Here are thirteen beautiful, hand-made scarves we recently received.

For all you knitters and crocheters out there, participating in the JFR’s charity knitting project entails making scarves for rescuers in Poland, where the JFR has a distribution mechanism. Participants send their scarves to the JFR, and we then distribute them to the rescuers. If you are interested in participating in this project, please contact the JFR.

Diretor of Education Kristen Lefebvre and Senior Program Associate in Rescuer Support Agnieszka Perzan with some beautiful scarves.

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Educating in NYC: 2011 One-Day teacher education seminar

On Tuesday, January 18, 2011 the JFR hosted its annual One-day teacher seminar on the Holocaust at the Union for Reform Judaism in New York City.  We had a fantastic group of metro area teachers who spent the day learning from scholars and discussing, in break-out groups, how to teach what they had learned. 

Teachers listening to the lecture.

We were fortunate enough to have two New York City scholars come to lecture.  Dr. Henry Feingold, Professor Emeritus of history and an expert on Refugee Policy during the Holocaust, lectured about Refugee Policy in the morning.  In the afternoon, Dr. Atina Grossman gave a lecture about Jewish life during the Weimar Republic, a topic that is part of her own personal family history.  Both lectures were enthralling, and our group of teachers came away with new knowledge about both topics, as well as inspiration for ways to teach the Holocaust in the classroom. 

Dr. Grossman answering questions from the teachers.

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