Friday, April 17, 2009

What You Can Do for Yom HaShoa – Holocaust Memorial Day

Yom HaShoa – Holocaust Memorial Day – is neatly tucked in between the last day of Passover and Israel’s Memorial/Independence Day celebrations. I call it Jewish precision planning, revolving around the Jewish mantra “REMEMBER.” Remember that we were once slaves in Egypt. Remember that the Nazis tried to destroy us.

In Israel it’s a lot easier to remember. Like clockwork at 10 a.m., air raid sirens blare forth for two minutes. The whole country literally comes to a standstill. Schoolchildren stand at attention next to their desks. Even cars on the highway brake to a halt; drivers get out and solemnly stand still on the road.

You could try simulating a moment of silence in your classroom and school. Better yet, Yom HaShoa is a wonderful opportunity to read a relevant book to your students. With today’s elementary school students being third and fourth generations away from the Holocaust, they don’t share the same emotions we did at their age. It is our job to connect them with this major event in the not so distant past that almost destroyed most of the Jewish world.

I have been doing interactive presentations on my book Keeping The Promise ever since it came out in 2003. The photo above is the beautiful display created by Elayna Weisel, the librarian at The Rose and Jack Orloff Central Agency for Jewish Education of Broward County, who arranged a wonderful author's tour for me this past November. Presenting Keeping The Promise was part of that tour. I can tell you that kids are spellbound by Holocaust stories. Whenever I finish reading this timeless tale of a Bar Mitzvah secretly celebrated in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp I always get the same response from every group of students. First they applaud and then they immediately ask: “Is that a true story?” I have yet to do a presentation on this book where this question is not asked, and right away. That says something. Kids want to connect. They want to feel that there is a direct link between their Jewish history and where they are today. Once I answer “yes”, inevitably there is always one student who gets the ball rolling by stating: “my grandmother/father (or great-grandmother/father) escaped the Nazis”. Then the discussion begins.

There are so many wonderful, true Holocaust stories for children. Pick the one you feel best suited for your class and give it your all when you read it out loud. The sirens don’t have to blare to get them to be quiet. You will appreciate the sounds of silence in your room as your students absorb every detail.

If you’d like to find out more about my book Keeping The Promise please visit my website and click on the book tour section.

I’ll be back next week with some Yom Ha’Atzmaut customs from Israel. In the meantime, don’t forget to take advantage of this exclusive offer for TAMI LEHMAN-WILZIG KIDS BOOKS readers. Go to Kar-Ben Publishing’s online bookstore and get 10% off your next order. Use coupon code TAMI when checking out. Offer expires August 10, 2009. One use per customer. Offer not valid with any other discounts.

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