Friday, June 09, 2023

Last weekend, BPY’s graduating class of 2022 reunited with administrators and teachers for their final “Names, Not Numbers©” event. Over a dinner, the graduates and their parents had some time to catch up. Then came the culmination of the students’ work: a viewing of the video the students created based on their Holocaust survivor interviews. BPY is so grateful to Shirley Gottesman, Renate Soybel, Alfred Strauss and Ruth Tobias who shared their oral history with the students. Students join the 8,000 plus students who have participated in this program, interviewing over 6,000 Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans.

The “Names Not Numbers©” program, founded by Tovah Fish Rosenberg, transforms history from traditional lessons into an active process in which students take the first hand testimony of Holocaust survivors. Along the way, students develop interviewing, filming and editing skills. Before the students were ready to learn about their survivors, Jeffrey Salgo, retired associate director and producer at CBS news, met with the students to discuss tricks for making interviews feel comfortable and encouraging them to open up. Videographer Michael Puro then taught the students how to use audio visual equipment. The students also spent time learning about the Holocaust from Sari Sheinfeld, Teaneck Holocaust survivor.

While they were in eighth-grade, the 26 graduates had been split into four groups, each one tasked with interviewing a Holocaust survivor. Interestingly, the stories students recorded were all varied and took place throughout Europe; while one of the survivors was a prisoner at Auschwitz, the others survived by hiding in Holland, an Italian barn and a German farm. The students listened as the survivors bore witness to significant historical events including the prisoner revolt in Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Allied bombing of Berlin.

Once they collected their video footage, the students then worked on consolidating their one-two hour interviews into 15 minute clips, highlighting the central parts of their survivors’ stories. The “Names, Not Numbers©” team then put together a professional video that simultaneously told the survivors’ stories while documenting the students’ experiences as they participated in this project. BPY is so proud of the graduates for the time they spent researching and learning about their survivors’ experiences during the Holocaust and for their ability to make each survivor feel comfortable as a guest of BPY.

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