By Rebekah Sherry
The North Shore Hebrew Academy hosted a showing of the student-made documentary “Names, Not Numbers: A Movie in the Making” on Monday night to honor and remember the lives and stories of Holocaust survivors.
Nearly 30 graduating eighth-graders from the academy worked through the school year to interview, film and edit the stories of six Holocaust survivors. Students worked after school and during free periods to put the project together. They went through hours of interview and camera training to prepare for their conversations with the survivors.
“It takes time and work and a lot of effort to make something that you’re proud of,” Jasmin Edalati, one of the students who worked on the project, said.
The survivors interviewed for the project came from a variety of backgrounds and lived through six very different experiences of the Holocaust.
Aron Bell, 91, spoke about starting the Bielski Partisan Group, a resistance effort against Nazi Germany. Lillian Berlinner, 90, spoke about being sent to Auschwitz and surviving a death march to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Henry Katz, 88, spoke about escaping Germany and hiding in Portugal until his family obtained U.S. visas. Evelyn Pike Rubin, 88, spoke about escaping to Shanghai with her family as refugees where the foreign climate and unsanitary conditions of the refugee camp led to her father’s death.
Doris Seeman, 85, spoke about being imprisoned in two concentration camps and how she and her brother took on false identities to live in a Catholic home. And 90-year-old Leon Sherman spoke about watching his friends and neighbors being shot and killed in front of him and his time in Auschwitz.
Edalati said speaking with the survivors, who were younger than her during the Holocaust, made her realize how quickly life can change and shatter.
“Never take anything in your life for granted because it could be taken away,” Edalati said.
Abby Weiss, the director of institutional development at the academy, said it can be “incredibly difficult” to find survivors to share their stories because the number of people who lived through the Holocaust and are still alive and able to share their stories is dwindling.
“You may be the last generation of students who are going to be able to tell this story,” Tova Fish-Rosenberg, the creator of the “Names, Not Numbers” project, said to students in the film. “You are the last link to being able to ask the questions and remember through film.”
The school reached out to local synagogues and students’ families to find survivors who were willing and able to share their stories. Some students even got to interview family members about their experiences.
Raquel Blatter said she learned a lot after interviewing her grandfather, Henry Katz, about his experiences.
“I thought I knew a lot before this about his story but just listening to the full thing and asking questions made me learn so many new things about his life,” Blatter said.
This was the third consecutive year that the North Shore Hebrew Academy has participated in the “Names, Not Numbers” project, in which students at schools in the United States and Israel interview Holocaust survivors.
The documentary will be archived at the National Library of Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Mendel Gottesman Library of Yeshiva University and at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to Holocaust victims.