Names, Not Numbers is a Holocaust education program developed by Tova Fish-Rosenberg and facilitated at WDS by Mrs. Jill Rivel. Every year, to enhance the Holocaust learning that is already part of our curriculum, the Names, Not Numbers program enables 8th graders to engage in a unique multidisciplinary learning experience that combines research, video production, and one-on-one interviews to preserve history in an original documentary film. Throughout the project, students work with professional journalists, Holocaust scholars, and filmmakers, and they have the unique (and fleeting) opportunity to learn about the Holocaust directly from those who experienced it, thus strengthening the personal and emotional connection m’dor l’dor, and preserving the survivors’ stories for future generations.
The Names, Not Numbers program commences with 8th graders viewing a documentary film that has been made by other students in the program to understand their end goal. To prepare for eventual interviews, students participate in several sessions to gain an understanding of the Holocaust timeline; the roles of conspirators, upstanders, and bystanders; the nature of spiritual and physical resistance; and the contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial that will be combated with their work. The students next meet with a journalist to learn interviewing techniques, which includes how to craft appropriate questions that can categorize a survivor’s experience into before the war, during the war, and after the war. A tour of the Holocaust exhibit at The Museum of Jewish Heritage also allows them the opportunity to see artifacts and learn from a museum educator. In small groups, students are then matched with one specific Holocaust survivor, and they spend weeks researching their particular story to prepare for a face-to-face interview. Learning professional video and editing techniques from a videographer, students enjoy the more technical elements of producing a documentary. A school or community rabbi leads a learning session about Emunah and Theodicy with the students after their interviews to help them process the tragic experiences within the Jewish lens.
There is a culminating dinner at WDS, during which the screening of the Names, Not Numbers documentary is presented to the participating students and survivors, along with their teachers and family members.
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