Recently, Alice Eichenbaum, a Holocaust survivor, spoke to the Jubilee Sisters, a Christian women’s group, at a private home in Wakefield, where she was warmly embraced by the women and men who came to hear her story. She has been sharing that story for the better part of the last 20 years.
Eichenbaum is part of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center (SBHEC) Speaker’s Bureau. In her words, it was “sheer luck that I happened to come to do it.” She was attending a talk at the University of Rhode Island, given by one of SBHEC’s first speakers, Leah Eliash. Recognizing that more survivors needed to come forward motivated Eichenbaum to join the Speakers Bureau.
The SBHEC mission is to teach the history of the Holocaust in order to promote human dignity and justice, and to serve as a memorial to its victims. One program that helps SBHEC accomplish this goal is the Survivor Visitation Program.
Through the Speakers Bureau, Holocaust survivors speak at schools, synagogues, churches and community groups. They open dialogue, encouraging participants to refrain from expressing prejudice, to notice it and to take constructive action.
Eichenbaum believes that “It’s important that people should know what happened, especially young people. So years from now when you meet someone who says the Holocaust didn’t happen you will be able to say that I met someone and heard it myself firsthand.”
She finds speaking to people about the Holocaust to be very gratifying. Sometimes she’ll be out somewhere in public and will be approached by someone who says, “I remember you. You spoke about the Holocaust at my school.” As she says, “That is the real reward of sharing my, and my husband’s, stories.”
Perhaps Eichenbaum’s main reasons for speaking are so that “no one should be prejudiced” and to increase tolerance between people. She especially loves speaking to students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. To them her message is loving and direct: “Don’t give up! Like my husband and I, you can overcome circumstances and achieve great things.”
In addition to speakers, SBHEC’s Survivor Visitation Program is successful thanks to the volunteers who offer their time and assistance. Many survivors no longer drive and need rides to and from speaking engagements. SBHEC can always use more volunteer drivers.
If you can help and are interested in volunteering, contact Paula Olivieri, SBHEC’s education director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEV POPLOW is a communications and development consultant. He can be reached at email@example.com.