A Grandfather’s Love

My grandchildren are my pride and joy. Recently my grandson, Ike wrote something for the Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance) service at his synagogue. I’d like to share it with you.  If you’d like to learn more about me and my story, Sevek the Boy Who Refused to Die, visit my website, HolocaustSpeaker.com. If you are a teacher interested in using my book in your classroom, fill out the contact form and I will send you a free copy.

A Grandfather’s Love

I don’t remember the first time I learned that my grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. My mother recounts that I was in her womb when he first began to talk about his story. In that sense, I suppose I’ve always carried his story with me. It’s never been a burden, though. Of course, it comes with a natural helping of Jewish guilt. How can I skip services to watch a football game if my grandpa has kept his faith through all the persecution he suffered? But mostly his story serves as a reminder of the power of love.

When I was 11 or 12, I went with my grandpa when he spoke to a group of young students somewhere near his home in Arizona. While many of the details are lost on me today – the name of the school, the city we were in, the teacher who had invited us – I will always remember that day in the fluorescent-lit, gray-tiled elementary school auditorium. I had heard my grandpa’s story many times, and read it many more, but on that day something specific stood out. As I observed teachers brushing back tears and watched the wonderment and curiosity on the students’ faces, I could feel an overwhelming sense of love for my grandpa throughout the room. I could feel my grandfather reciprocate that same love as he paced across the stage sharing his story, and warmly answering students’ questions. It struck me that there was so much love in the room, brought out by a story of such anguish and heartbreak. I was amazed by the contrast between the immense pain my grandpa spoke about, and the love I felt in that auditorium.

Later in life, my cousin Bari and I got the opportunity to travel to Winnipeg, Canada with our grandfather to introduce him as he accepted a story telling award. The reception where he spoke was held at a wonderful family center with glass walls overlooking a gorgeous park. The crowd was made up of distinguished academics and story tellers rather than fifth graders, and we were half a continent away, but I felt that same love surrounding my grandpa.

All I Have Is My Story

“All I have is my story”. That is what I tell people when I speak.

I am not an expert on World War II or a professor of history or anything like that. I just have a story that moves people. Especially kids. Because I was just a little kid like them when the Holocaust began, and my life turned into a nightmare.

When I speak, it makes me feel closer to my lost family. It helps me to heal. But I also speak because maybe it helps other kids to heal too. We live in a world where people are mistreated every day. Racism, Anti-Semitism, immigrants…. I could go on and on.

People hear my story and they can relate to it. It gives them hope that they can survive the hatred. And maybe, if enough people read my story, they will learn to be more tolerant of people who are not just like them. Sometimes it gives them the courage just to survive.

I am also the boy who refused to die

Last March, when I was speaking in Yorktown, Indiana, a little boy named Tyler told me that he had had two brain surgeries. He said he is also the boy who refused to die.

Recently, a survey was released about how much people know or don’t know about the Holocaust. The Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study found that 7 out of 10 Americans (70%) say fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to. And a majority — 58% — believe something like the Holocaust could happen again.

There was lots of terrible news in this survey. But there was a little bit of good news, too.

  • There is a desire for Holocaust education and improvement in the quality of Holocaust curriculum.
  • Virtually all U.S. adults (93%) believe all students should learn about the Holocaust in school.
  • 80% say it is important to keep teaching about the Holocaust, so it does not happen again.

Here is a link if you want to see the whole thing Holocaust Knowledge & Awareness Study Executive Summary 4.10.18.docx.