In a way, Alana Snyder has grown up with Holocaust.
The Pikesville native, who still lives there, attended Krieger Schechter Day School from kindergarten through eighth grade, after which she attended the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology in nearby Towson. She grew up in an active Jewish household with her siblings: identical twin sister Rebecca, and older brothers Ben and Aaron.
The family attended Chizuk Amuno, where Snyder says she still remembers attending Torah for Tots and Junior Congregation.
“I always remember being there,” says the now 33-year-old, who is married (husband Jeff) and has two young daughters: Kenzie, 4, and Avery, 1½.
She also always remembers that her grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Though her grandfather passed away before Snyder was born, she was close with her grandmother, Bernice Horon, who lived until 2015. While the two didn’t talk about the Holocaust per se, Snyder was more than aware of it as a presence during childhood and into early adulthood.
In fact, Snyder’s mother has long been active with the Baltimore Jewish Council’s Holocaust Remembrance Commission, which Snyder has also joined — first as a speaker and now as a member on the commission itself. “It’s something special we do together,” she said.
Snyder is a special-education teacher for Baltimore County Public Schools, working with children ages birth to 3 who have developmental delays or other disabilities. She found her professional path with kids after graduating from the University of Delaware with a major in criminal justice, considering social work, then working with children on the Autism Spectrum and obtaining a master’s degree in special education from Towson University.
The strong relationship with your grandmother … describe a memorable experience with her.
The best part of visiting my Grandma was going to Greenwood Furnace, a state park near her house. My siblings and I would swim in the lake, go fishing with my Grandma’s green fishing net and have an enormous picnic lunch. There was an old seesaw there that would send us flying in the air if we didn’t hold on tightly.
Have you ever formally studied the Holocaust? Are there books, films or other materials that you have read or seen and stuck with you?
As a student at Krieger Schechter Day School, I learned a lot about the Holocaust and visited the Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museum twice. In my senior year of high school, there was a Holocaust unit that required each student to read a book about the subject. I received special permission to read my Grandma’s journal — the only written testimony we have of her experience — in lieu of a published book. It was the first time I read about her personal experience, and to be honest, it took many years and repetitions of reading and telling her story for the details to stick. I think the story is so traumatic that in order to cope, my brain read the words but didn’t commit them to memory. Now that I’ve formally shared my Grandma’s story over 30 times, I can recount most of the details easily.
How does society keep the experiences, as horrific as they were, alive as the survivor population diminishes?
This is the responsibility (and power!) of the “3G” movement (referring to third-generation survivors or grandchildren of survivors). In most cases, we are the last living links to witnesses of the atrocities of Hitler, the Nazis and those who turned a blind eye to what was happening. Sharing my Grandma’s story, as difficult as it is to tell and to hear, is how I keep her experiences relevant.
What do you want young people to know about the Holocaust? How can it be better taught in schools? And how does your work on the committee move towards that goal?
Young people need to understand that what happened to the victims of the Holocaust did not occur overnight. People all over Europe and across the world witnessed simple acts of hate and Anti-Semitism, yet they remained silent. When teaching the Holocaust in schools, having survivors, their children or their grandchildren share their personal stories is a powerful way to support a Holocaust curriculum.
What is most rewarding about being a teacher of young children?
Working for Baltimore County’s Infants and Toddlers Program has been a true gift. My favorite part has been a program that I run called “Connections,” a group that utilizes research-based methods for children with social-communication needs. The children who attend make wonderful progress in their language, social and play skills. Everything is data-driven, so parents can see the progress their children make.
What is most rewarding about being a parent?
My twin sister and I share a very special bond, and our kids are close in age. Seeing them play, laugh and interact with each other has been the greatest reward. I hope they remain close as they continue to grow and evolve. It also helps that we live about 2,000 feet from each other.
If you suddenly had an entire afternoon to yourself, what would you do?
Believe it or not, an afternoon all to myself is not unheard of, thanks to my wonderful and supportive husband! On these days, you will most likely find me doing something creative. I love to quilt and do projects around the house. I have my own little workshop in the garage with all the basic power tools (and a couple fun ones!).