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Area high school and college students share how they spent their ‘Jewish Summers.’

This story was published in Jewish News

By Grant Campion

This past July, I visited Israel for three weeks with my youth group, B’nai Brith Youth Organization, more commonly known as “BBYO.” The trip is called BBYO’s international Leadership Seminar in Israel.

During these three weeks we traveled to eight cities, saw Israel’s borders, swam in the Dead Sea, visited the Golan, prayed at the Kotel, and saw and did so much more. I gained a wealth of knowledge and information during these many unique experiences, as if Israel was a classroom in itself.

One day during the trip, I stumbled upon an elderly woman, Herta Goldman, struggling to order her drink in the hotel lobby, and in return for my helping her, she decided to tell me a story. This story, which would take her more than four hours to tell, was the story of her survival of the Holocaust. I wrote the following shortly after talking with her:

“Today I had the amazing experience of speaking with Herta Goldman, an 88-year old Holocaust survivor. We discussed the eight days she went without food and water after escaping from Auschwitz, her learning upon returning to her home in Poland that most of her family died, and most important, her successful acclimation to life in Israel after the Holocaust. Hearing her stories of perseverance in the face of catastrophe reassure us that we can find hope and peace in the midst of any tragedy, something extremely relevant in today’s world.”

I spent another three days at the same hotel as Herta, and I met with her in the hotel lobby at the same time each night to talk about whatever came to our minds. Although it was only she and I on the first night, by the fourth night together, we had gathered a crowd of more than 40 kids who wanted to meet her, tell her their own stories, or simply listen to the wisdom she was imparting.

When it came time to leave, Herta and I exchanged our goodbyes, and she began to cry. She said to me “You are my children, you are all my children, I lost everyone I loved, but now I have you and your friends. it is your duty to carry on my word and to live in our homeland and ensure that it is ours forever. Thank you for taking the time to make an old woman very happy, I wish you and your loved ones the best in life.”

Never again. Never forget.

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