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From a Class Project to a Holocaust Teaching Tool

December 19, 2013 By:
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Gladwyne's Sara Greenberg receives the Blue Card Young Leadership Award from Dr. Ruth Westheimer, her former teacher at Yale, for whose class Greenberg made a film about the Holocaust.

Mitzvah Hero: Gladwyne native Sara Greenberg, 26, whose focus on the legacy of the Holocaust led her to produce a film on the topic for a senior year class project at Yale, is the first Young Leadership Award winner of the Blue Card. The honor was accorded her at the 79th annual Blue Card Gala in New York, hosted by the organization whose “sole mission is to provide direct financial assistance to Holocaust survivors who live at or near the poverty level.”

What It’s All About: Greenberg put together her film, B-2247: A Granddaughter’s Understanding, while taking a class on “Family and the Jewish Tradition” taught by Holocaust survivor/media personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer. The film focused on a 2005 family trip the Greenbergs took to her maternal grandparents’ homes.

“We didn’t go on the trip to make a film,” says the Yale economics grad now enrolled in a joint master’s program in public policy and business administration at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Business School. “I had never made a film before, and was, really, the least likely student to make one.”

So once the idea came together, she looked to friends and family for help. Her brother, Jackson, a composer now working on the West Coast, provided the score of original music. Her friend Matthew Heineman, while not on the trip, also helped in producing the film.

And, in a way, so did her grandfather Joseph Gringlas, who was invited last spring to speak at Auschwitz to about 100 members of the Israel Defense Forces.

"He couldn’t say no,” says Greenberg of her grandfather, who had been imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. “He had to go back; the IDF are his heroes.”

At the specific invitation of Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak Gershon, the national head of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Gringlas accompanied IDF members on a trip from Israel to Auschwitz. Greenberg got some impressive shots for an update of the film, including one of a platoon commander hoisting her grandfather on his shoulders after their return to Israel from Poland.

Film “is a creative way to understand what happened,” says the Blue Card honoree, who received her award in New York from her former teacher, Westheimer. “It’s effective, in this case, because a young person made the film. Young people can use these lessons of the past.”

So can the Shoah Foundation, which has included the movie in its collection of tools to teach the lessons of the Holocaust. The film is also screened by the United Nations on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Birthright will also be showing it to young Jews on its learning tours of Israel.

Not a One-Time Thing: Greenberg’s participation in Blue Card activities — including fundraising and marathon races dedicated to making people aware of the organization’s mission — dates to 2010. She also has been integral to the development of a Holocaust and tolerance facility in Hong Kong and has been active in the establishment of a Holocaust center in Cuba. Then there is Facing History, a New York project in which grandchildren are instructed in interfacing with their grandparents who are survivors. Often, she says, survivors are more willing to open up about their experiences to their grandchildren than their own children.

Good for Her: Greenberg, the daughter of Joel Greenberg and Marcy Gringlas, says the Blue Card honor makes her even more committed to ensuring that the tragedy of the Holocaust is a lesson future generations will "never forget!"

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