So to meet that mandated goals of Act 70 — and spread Holocaust awareness in general — the Jewish War Veterans offer a free Holocaust Remembrance Education Program.
Teaching the Holocaust remains a purely voluntary instruction.
But per Act 70 — the 2014 law that encourages Pennsylvania schools to teach Holocaust, genocide and human rights violations, though they are not required to do so — if less than 90 percent of schools offer the education by the end of 2017, legislation will make it a requirement.
So to meet that mandated 90 percent — and spread Holocaust awareness in general — the Jewish War Veterans offer a free Holocaust Remembrance Education Program.
The Fegelson Young Feinberg Post 697 of Levittown has provided this interactive presentation throughout parts of Southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey for the past 21 years, going to public, private and parochial schools or other locations like libraries, colleges or retirement communities.
In the past year, the veterans have shared this two-hour program with 10,000 people.
Program chairman Allan Silverberg said they host two to three presentations a week.
“I’ve been trying to keep it two per week, but we’ve been getting a lot of requests,” he laughed.
He said they’ve been able to reach out to 10,000 people because they either receive requests to return to a school or a new place hears about them through word of mouth.
The program delves into Nazi Germany and Europe during World War II or books such as Night or The Diary of Anne Frank, led by actual veterans and Holocaust survivors. They also emphasize the need for diversity, tolerance and anti-bullying.
All of the veterans involved in this program are volunteers. They have about 110 members, which has dwindled down from 200 over the years due to age or veterans retiring to Florida.
Two speakers in particular — Holocaust survivor Daniel Goldsmith and Pfc. Bernard Lens, who served in the Army, liberating camps under Gen. George Patton — share their experiences and stories.
Their testimonies have been more than well received: Silverberg said about four years ago a film crew from Barcelona, Spain recorded Goldsmith’s story, and now they play it at some of their presentations.
About 20 members meet once a month at Team Toyota of Langhorne — the building management allows them to use a meeting room — to prep for upcoming presentations.
Some people even book them a year in advance, but when they go out to the schools, only a handful go.
They recently went to Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley, but about one-third of the program leans toward Catholic schools.
“If we impact just one person, it makes it worthwhile,” he said.
Although Silverberg supports Act 70, he doesn’t think there is enough funding behind it.
“It’s important, especially now,” he said. “We’re losing about 1,000 survivors per month, which in addition to that, even GIs in World War II and also Korea. So it’s important that while they’re still available to go out with us to tell their story.
“Each one is unique — unique with different students or attendees. We have a Q&A at the end of our program, and we open it to the audience,” he continued.
“But even afterward, they come up to you and tell us what they learned, how it affected them. They say this changed their lives.”
During one presentation, which is usually geared toward sixth-graders and older, one fifth-grader heard about the program and was eager to learn.
“The fifth-grader asked to come, to be there,” Silverberg said. “And the fifth-grader has taken an interest in that and has done some research on her own.”
After the program that she attended with her mother, she traveled to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. with her parents.
“We hope that it will help these individuals to sort of change their lives, and it has changed their lives in many positive ways,” he added. “These stories impacted people on a personal level.
“I feel it’s worthwhile to do this as much as we can and as long as we can, and I hope we can reach out to as many people as we can.”
To contact Post 697, call 267-573-9697 or email [email protected]
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0737