April 16, 2024
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JKHA Students Produce Holocaust Documentary of Survivor Testimonials

The students in the eighth grade at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy have learned about the Holocaust in their classrooms, but nothing has compared to their experience participating in the Names Not Numbers program in which they each interviewed and filmed Holocaust survivors, recording their stories for posterity. The movie they created themselves, from start to finish, was screened on Wednesday, June 1.

Over the course of the past year, the eighth graders were divided into groups, each of which was assigned a Holocaust survivor. The students were mentored by Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman on best practices for conducting an engaging interview. Each group spent time researching the story of their survivor in order to develop appropriate interview questions. A documentary-style videographer then worked with the students on how to film the interviews. The eighth graders filmed the interview themselves, and spent several weeks editing down the footage. The students participating in Names Not Numbers also visited the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City as part of the program.

The finished product, the edited stories of eight survivors, was screened at the school along with a professionally produced documentary that follows the students every step of the way throughout the year-long process.

JKHA Middle School Principal Debbie Finkelstein advised the students along the way. “It was an incredibly powerful experience to go through the process with these students,” commented Mrs. Finkelstein. “To experience these survivors’ stories through the eyes of thirteen and fourteen-year-olds was moving, and I couldn’t be prouder of these students for the level of respect that they showed the survivors. They truly understood and embodied the importance of the program.”

The students found it difficult to edit the interviews, feeling that everything the survivors had to say was valuable. The survivors’ stories traversed countries throughout Europe and eventually the United States, and their experiences included the horrors of the concentration camps, grueling work of labor camps, the fears of being hidden in the care of righteous gentiles and the anguish of leaving family behind.

“Each and every student came out of the Names Not Numbers program moved, with a deeper understanding of the atrocities of the Holocaust, “ commented Mrs. Finkelstein.

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