Photo credit: Maxine Lipshitz

 The Yeshiva of Central Queens gratefully acknowledges the Names, Not Numbers© Program that has taught our students about the Holocaust through the accounts of eyewitnesses, provided them with interviewing, filming, and editing skills and, most importantly, enabled meaningful relationships to be forged between the survivors and our students. YCQ has benefited tremendously from its participation in this Legacy Heritage project.

On Wednesday night, June 23, YCQ’s eighth grade students concluded the Names, Not Numbers program of 2020-2021. Twenty students from the grade interviewed four Holocaust survivors:

Dorothy Berman, from Katowice, Poland, the only child survivor of the Krakow Ghetto. She survived with both of her parents, who were all allowed to remain in the ghetto to work for the Nazis after liquidation. She was interviewed by students Eli Bokhour, Avi Finkel, Gabriel Khaimov, Gavriel Kramer, and Noam Traeger.

Pauline Gutwein Berger, from Antwerp, Belgium, who says she owes her life to the Queen Mother of Belgium. She opposed the Nazis and made a deal to protect the children of Belgium and placed Pauline in a children’s home until her mother came to get her after liberation.

Rebbetzin Adele (Koffler) Ginzberg, from Vienna, Austria who spent the war in hiding and eventually made it to Switzerland on foot, where she was placed with a Jewish family until the war ended. She was interviewed by students Ari Ben, Ariel Elazar, Eli Opoczyski, Eli Shaye, and Nadav Suleymanov.

Rachel Epstein, from France. Her parents were Russian and arrested; however, they did not arrest the French children. She and her brother were taken in by their neighbors, Suzanne and Henri Robouleau and their sons Rene and Marcel, at great risk, and hidden throughout the war. They were the only Jews from their town in Compiegne, France, to survive the war. After the war she was sent without her brother to an aunt in America. There, she married, raised a family, and, 13 years after her arrival, was able to sponsor her brother and his family and bring them to America. She was interviewed by students Daniella Czegledi, Shira Fisher, Nanetta Katayev, Odelia Soleimani, and Ashley Toobian.

The students formulated and asked questions to the survivors based on their research on the life of each survivor. They learned filming techniques, and they filmed and edited interviews with the survivors. The students created a documentary film based on the survivors’ stories.

The completed Names, Not Numbers film was presented to the participants, the YCQ faculty, the survivors, and their families at YCQ during a dinner and viewing event. The students were very inspired and moved by the survivors’ stories of resilience. “My favorite part of the Names, Not Numbers dinner was when we watched the compiled version of all the interviews. I got to hear so many life stories of the survivors’ experiences in the Holocaust,” said Gabriel Khaimov, a participant who interviewed Dorothy Berman.

This dinner was not only meaningful to the students, but to the survivors, as well. Dorothy Berman, one of the interviewed Holocaust survivors, said that doing programs like Names, Not Numbers is meaningful, because “It’s so important that they actually meet us and hear from us, so that when they get older, they can tell their children that they actually met a Holocaust survivor and know more about it than just from a textbook.”

The students and everyone involved were grateful for the opportunity. This was especially important because this is one the last generations that will be able to meet Holocaust survivors and hear their stories as firsthand accounts. This amazing opportunity has been brought to YCQ students as well as other students around the world by Tova Fish-Rosenberg, the creator and producer of the acclaimed Names, Not Numbers© Intergenerational Holocaust Oral History Film Documentary Project. Over 6,000 students have participated in the project, together with 2,000 survivors in the US, Canada, and Israel.

By Noam Traeger, eighth grade