The Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers' Program was founded by Warsaw Ghetto heroine Vladka Meed in 1985. We have more than 1100 alumni who hail from every state in the union. Every summer we take teachers to Germany and Poland to study about the Holocaust with a special emphasis on spiritual resistance. The cost rises each year, but we have tried to maintain a low program fee for teachers, realizing that they are still among the lowest paid professionals in our society.
Most of our money comes from grants and donations, but as survivors, our most generous contributors, have passed away, the donations have dwindled. Yet the need for the program is greater than ever. The rise of nationalist groups spewing hatred has alarmed all of us, but there seem to be few concrete ways that we can counteract this despicable behavior. Our program is one way! Students who have a teacher well-versed in the history of antisemitism and how to combat it will not be swayed by the rhetoric of bias and violence.
Please help to support us so that our program can continue. We need your help now! Applications for our program are pouring in, but we cannot proceed without the money to pay for the travel and accomomodations our teachers will require.
If you care about the issues we address, if you are an alum of our program, if you are a survivor, a 2G or 3G, if you are a teacher, a historian, or if you just want to see a better world, please give.
This morning I am thinking about the fortitude of women during the years of the Holocaust.
I remember in particular the story Vladka would tell about her mother in the Warsaw ghetto. Vladka's younger brother was reaching Bar Mitzvah age, and though they were not a strictly observant family, it was important that this young man study for his special day of becoming a Jew in the eyes of the community.
Vladka's mother had no money to pay the rabbi for the preparatory lessons, but she was not deterred. She starved herself to pay the rabbi with what little food she could put aside from her own very meager rations.
The irony, of course, was that the young boy never lived to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah, but the triumph was the strength with which Vladka's mother held on to her traditions, even in the face of such adversity. These were the very same traditions that were condemning her family to death, yet she remained steadfast and determined!
I have recently learned about an episode in my mother's past that I was not aware of until now. My mother saved the life of a woman from her town while they were both in Birkenau. The woman was sick and could no longer walk to work, so my mother and a friend dragged her each morning, rather than leaving her behind in the barracks to be selected for death. My mother was emaciated and sick too, but she remembered what she had been taught about loyalty and caring for others. She endangered herself to help someone in greater need. I wish I had known this story while my mother was still alive. Telling it to you now brings her back, if even for a moment.
Both of these stories deserve to be heard by our students. They illustrate the best of humanity. Please help us to preserve the stories by supporting a program that emphasizes how spiritual resistance made a difference during the Holocaust.
We are $126 away from our goal of $15,000! Can you take us over the top?
Vladka and Ben Meed celebrated their anniversary at each Alumni conference of HAJRTP although I am not sure that February 14 was their actual wedding day. The story of their courtship sits alongside their personal heroism during the Holocaust and puts a human face on history.
Each of them was involved in significant undercover work. Many of you have read Vladka's book, On Both Sides of the Wall, and know about her time as a courier. You may not know that Ben was hiding his family in a Christian cemetery where he was working as a gravedigger. And you may not know about a very close call when Ben had to hide inside a window seat because Vladka was receiving a visit from someone who could turn both of them in if they were found out.
It was Ben's mother who gave the couple her ring so that they could be married. Vladka talked about their relationship as a primary reason to stay alive. After the deaths of her family she was completely alone and no longer felt the need to fight for her own life. Having Ben made a difference in her determination to save as many Warsaw Jews as she could, particularly children.
It is this human aspect of the Holocaust that our program emphasizes. We always want to stress what life was like for the ordinary person and how people coped with such life-altering events. There is so much that our students can learn about resilience from hearing these stories. And about love!
Please help us reach our $15,000 goal so that we can finalize plans for our seminar this summer.
Thanks, with love
We are so close to meeting our goal. The funds are desperately needed. If you have already given, please pass this on to someone who might want to make a donation to this worthy cause.
If you have not given, please consider making a donation now. I am appealing in particular to our alumni who know first-hand the value of this program and who can attest to how it changed their lives.
Even small donations mount up!
This program has spent 33 years teaching about the Holocaust and emphasizing that the Nazis could not have been as successful as they were without the collaboration of local populations. Now Poland's parliament has passed a bill and its president has signed it stating that the Poles were not perpetrators.
For those of us who grew up in survivor families with parents who were from Poland, this statement is ludicrous. We know that our families suffered at the hands of their neighbors even before the Nazis gave them license to vent their antisemitism and betray people for money or sugar.
Antisemitic violence was a part of the culture of Europe, especially in Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Bielorussia. To deny that Poles were complicit in the violence against and the murder of Jews is to deny the truth.
The Poles did not establish the death camps, and perhaps the term "Polish death camp" sounds like they did. But to call these "Jewish death camps" is as offensive to me as the term "Jewish Holocaust." In neither case did the Jews have any agency; they were the victims of the Nazis and their collaborators.
There were people who tried to help, and I am not denying that, but the number of rescuers is far exceeded by the numbers that profited from the expulsion of and murder of the Jews.
HAJRTP is determined to tell the truth about the Holocaust, even as we venture onto Polish soil this summer with our newest group of teachers. We will visit seven Nazi camps, four of them on Polish soil, one of them, Majdanek, in plain sight of the city of Lublin then and now. Another, Belzec, was a favorite outing spot on a Sunday afternoon for the local population while the camp was in operation. At Treblinka, local farmers and peasants "mined" the ground for years afterward for Jewish belongings, particularly gold and silver from teeth and jewelry.
How can you be both a victim and a collaborator? I believe you were either one or the other.
Please help us tell the truth to our teachers so that they can tell the truth to their students.
Keep this program alive through your donation.