In Baltimore, the community paid tribute to Elie Wiesel. In Howard County, the community explored artifacts from the time period and held a memorial service. These poignant events were wfurther expounded elsewhere in the community — at Towson University, where Howard Kaidanow spoke about becoming a resistance fighter at age 13, which Hannah Monicken captured in last week’s issue, and at Roland Park Country School, where survivor Minnie Osher spoke to students, among them, her great-granddaughter.
Like most survivors, their stories were incredible and unique. Barely a teen, Kaidanow’s main job was to dynamite trains. Osher’s story, which Daniel Nozick tells in this week’s JT, includes surviving the Lodz Ghetto, death marches and six concentration camps.
Kaidanow, now 88, only started telling his story five years ago when he realized “no one else could tell this story,” he said. For Osher, 91, it was straightforward: “Because I’m Jewish! Because I went through this terrible thing. Why did I go through it? The whole world needs to know.”
It’s impossible to answer how she and Kaidanow, and the many survivors and millions of victims, went through what they went through. But speaking about it at events such as these, and remembering the Holocaust through Yom HaShoah, ensures that it was not in vain. It ensures that the Jewish community and non-Jewish communities remember and that the stories live on beyond those who lived to tell them.
That point was not lost on the students. “We are the last generation that gets to hear these stories [firsthand]. … To pass [them] on to our peers and children is very important,” said Jewish Heritage Club member Rebecca Zipper. The president of the Student Diversity Association, Alanna Sereboff, found the testimony poignant, as she is around Osher’s age when Osher went through her ordeals. “Trying to think of myself in her shoes, that is insane.”
This illustrates exactly why the stories of Osher and Kaidanow and so many others like them need to be kept alive long after they’re gone — they personalize history and evoke sympathy and empathy. It seems the mission of Yom HaShoah was not lost on the students at Roland Park.
But on Yom HaShoah, we can also take the time to celebrate the vitality of the Jewish people.
As Roland Park student Rebecca Sereboff reflected upon seeing her classmate with her great-grandmother, “Seeing Lexi right next to [Osher] was really, really powerful. It is this statement that the Jews have survived. We are still here.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.