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Grandchildren of Holocaust survivors have shared their family stories with hundreds of middle and high school students in South Florida in order to educate them about the lessons of the Shoah.
Through 3GMiami, an education nonprofit that launched in April 2020 and made up of grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, professionally trained speakers, who are third-generation survivors, are providing family testimonies to students in grades 6-12.
The Miami-based organization continues to build a local network of grandchildren of survivors that can serve as classroom speakers and carry on the legacy of their grandparents. It is currently reaching out to teachers in Miami-Dade County schools to offer volunteer classroom speakers as part of their Holocaust education instruction, which is mandated in the state of Florida.
Stephanie Rosen and Julie Paresky, 3GMiami co-founders, spoke to students at Coral Reef High School and MAST Academy, both in Miami, and shared their grandparents’ stories of persecution and survival from the Holocaust.
Rosen and Paresky explained their inspiration for starting the organization.
“We’re both descendants of survivors, and I’ve always felt like these stories were important to share, mainly to make sure that this [Holocaust] doesn’t happen again,” Rosen said. “As time goes on, that feeling has become more and more important to us, and sadly, there are less survivors able to tell their stories, as I lost my grandparents a long time ago and Julie lost her grandfather more recently, so those are the things that really have encouraged us.”
When she spoke to students, Rosen recounted her grandparents’ escape from Berlin during Kristallnacht, a pogrom referred to as the Night of Broken Glass that took place from Nov. 9-10 and signaled the beginning of the Holocaust. With the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, Rosen described the organization’s mission as “very important.”
“I think when these anniversaries come around, it makes you think,” she said. “I remember for many years, I’ve been bringing in survivors to speak at my children’s school, and I was so happy to be able to do that. We have tremendous respect for these survivors, but in the front of my mind, we’ve known life is life, and it doesn’t last forever, and we ask ourselves how we’re going to be able to make sure these stories live on.”
Rosen continued, “Thank God there’s documentation and videos, and hearing these stories from grandchildren who were very connected to their grandparents is another method that’s very heartfelt and human.”
Paresky, the granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors, said, “My grandfather was very vocal and felt it was his privilege and duty to speak for those who couldn’t speak for themselves, those who didn’t survive.”
“When he passed away three years ago at the age of 96, I started to think about who was going to continue to share his story and honor the legacies of both those who survived and those who perished in the Holocaust,” she continued. “There is an important opportunity to not forget the past and learn from it and to understand how we can apply these lessons today.”
Paresky added, “Sharing these personal stories, which the survivors have shared themselves for so many years, is an important way to educate students and honor the legacies.”
“We are also empowering other grandchildren of survivors to do the same by training them on how to use their own grandparents’ testimonies as an educational tool,” she continued. “Our organization helps grandchildren of Holocaust survivors to learn how to share their stories in meaningful ways, and this is very important for me. Educating children and making these connections to their world today is a big priority in ensuring our future and hopefully eliminating hatred, bigotry, and antisemitism.”
Paresky said there’s been a “wonderful, positive reception” when speaking to students, teachers and 3G [grandchildren of survivors] participants in training.
“We have been fortunate to be mentored by an incredible woman and a child survivor herself, Dr. Miriam Klein Kassenoff, who has afforded us the opportunity to present to students in Miami-Dade public schools. We’ve already presented to hundreds of students in local high schools and have ongoing requests.”
Paresky noted that they recently showcased their program to hundreds of Miami-Dade public school teachers as part of a professional development training where they learned how to teach the Holocaust.
Kassenoff, director of the University of Miami Holocaust Teacher Institute who led the training, said, “It has been my privilege and honor to be working with both Julie Paresky and Stephanie Rosen in assisting them and mentoring them in establishing the Miami 3G program.”
“I am so excited to see what wonderful work they are doing in continuing the legacy of Holocaust education by training other 3Gs on how to tell their grandparents’ testimonies and stories of survival and resilience from the Holocaust,” she continued. “Our teachers and students in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools have welcomed their outstanding presentations. Truly, they personify the saying L’Dor V’dor, From Generation to Generation.”
Helen Sachs Chaset, a second-generation survivor who’s assisting with the program, said, “The stories of the Holocaust and the stories of the Holocaust survivors are best told by person to person, and this third generation taking on the mantle will ensure that we learn from our past.”