This past week, Bais Yaakov of Queens hosted Mrs. Helen Hoffman, a member of the Holocaust Museum’s speakers bureau. Mrs. Hoffman addressed the eighth-grade girls about their need to know what happened just 75 years ago, during the Holocaust, as the number of survivors diminishes. She emphasized how each story of a survivor is important!
Mrs. Hoffman captured the girls’ attention with the story of her mother, who was near their age when the war broke out. That similarity made the stories more meaningful and left an imprint on them. Mrs. Hoffman shared her mother’s experiences in the ghetto and concentration camp. Her story continued with life after the war, the remnants of her family, making a life for herself, and Mrs. Hoffman’s birth in the displaced persons’ camp.
Mrs. Elisa Taub, a morah at Bais Yaakov of Queens and Mrs. Hoffman’s daughter, and Sarale Taub, a student at Bais Yaakov of Queens and Mrs. Hoffman’s granddaughter, both listened to the presentation, sharing their pride in the legacy of their grandmother and great-grandmother.
The girls asked many thoughtful questions. At Bais Yaakov of Queens, they study the Holocaust in depth. Rabbi Mordechai Gewirtz, dean of Bais Yaakov of Queens, and Mrs. Sarah Bergman, general studies principal, both stress the achrayus and the need for the children to know about the Holocaust. For more than 20 years, their assistant principal, Mrs. Karen Reisbaum, has been teaching an in-depth, yearlong course to the eighth grade. She said, “Hearing firsthand accounts of the Holocaust is not only informative; their stories are what makes the course memorable.”
The girls thirsted for greater details of what life was like in the ghetto, and Mrs. Hoffman’s details helped crystallize their understanding of life during the war and what survival meant.
The display of pictures Mrs. Hoffman presented, the vivid descriptions of a new life in America, and the presentation of two copies of the book Mrs. Hoffman’s family wrote about her mother received enthusiastic applause and gratitude from the girls.