A group of around 30 people, 24 of them students, departed the Bay Area this week for a two-week, cross-denominational Holocaust study tour.
The group includes 13 high school students from public, private, Jewish and Catholic schools throughout the Bay Area, as well as 11 college students. The Jewish–non-Jewish split on the students is exactly 50-50, and the students come from diverse backgrounds, including Ethiopian and Afghani.
“I’ve been involved in formal education, including teen trips, for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, the senior educator at Lehrhaus Judaica in Berkeley. “These students are coming with radically different personal histories — some have received extensive Holocaust education at their Catholic schools, some of them have parents who were themselves political detainees in Africa, some from families that are still experiencing issues such as threat of deportation, financial dislocation. One has a grandparent who was a refugee from Nazi Germany … the economic and social diversity of this group is just remarkable.”
Wolf-Prusan is leading the trip with Morgan Blum, director of education at the Holocaust Center of the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and others.
The trip, which departed June 26, is a joint program between Lehrhaus and the Holocaust Center, in partnership with the Taube Foundation.
The group will travel through Eastern and Central Europe to Israel, visiting Auschwitz, Krakow, Warsaw and Berlin. In Israel, they will meet with officials from the Israeli Supreme Court.
Among the other adults on the trip will be Jim McGarry, a Holocaust educator at San Francisco’s Mercy High School and the director of the Helen and Joe Farkas Center for the Study of the Holocaust, as well as Helen Farkas herself, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor who will lend her perspective to the youth’s travels.
“This isn’t about Jewish identity, and it isn’t about a singular people’s experience,” Wolf-Prusan said. “These students are coming from a place of humanity, not just trying to understand the Holocaust from the perspective of the Jewish people.” n