Teens gather with Holocaust survivors to celebrate ‘A Shabbat to Remember’


Participants in “A Shabbat to Remember”.Participants in “A Shabbat to Remember”.

Providence – BBYO teens from New England, the BBYO region serving Jewish teens in Rhode Island and Eastern Massachusetts, hosted 60 members of the local Jewish community at BBYO’s Global Shabbat, themed “A Shabbat to Remember.” The event took place Nov. 6-7 at the Dwares JCC. Among the participants were two Holocaust survivors, two of their friends, and Paula Olivieri, from The Holocaust Education and Resource Center of Rhode Island.  The survivors shared their stories of struggle and perseverance, just days before the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht as the teens in attendance embraced the great responsibility of passing down these personal accounts.

“Being a holy day and a day of peace and rest, meeting with Holocaust survivors was a wonderful experience. Hearing their stories about the struggles they went through and the joy they experience today with family, friends and other Jews makes you think about how lucky we are that we are alive and can practice our religion freely” said Reuben Kittrell, age 17, of Holliston (Mass.) High School.

“They were so happy,  listening to us and hearing about our daily living and all the great things we are able to do as Jewish youth. Meeting with the survivors made my Shabbat the day of peace and rest beyond wonderful. It was an experience full of joy and happiness I could not have asked for a better experience on Shabbat,” he said.

“Sitting with the survivors was such a memorable and unique experience,” said Sonia Richter, age 15, of Classical High School in Providence. “Not everyone gets to eat dinner with people who inspire Jews worldwide. These survivors endured so much and are now able to celebrate what was initially taken away from them, their right to being Jewish. It was such an amazing night.”

This event not only happened on the local level in Providence, but on the global level across 15 countries: Argentina, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Israel, Latvia, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, Uruguay and the United States. Survivors had the opportunity to be inducted into BBYO as honorary members of the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) and B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG), BBYO’s high school leadership fraternity and sorority, symbolically giving them the opportunity to relive their childhood.

In advance of Global Shabbat, BBYO’s International Teen presidents issued a statement: “With ‘A Shabbat to Remember,’ we aim to create celebratory and open spaces so that survivors can share their stories. As the last generation to have the opportunity to hear from these survivors, it is our responsibility to make the most of this gift so that we will never forget the atrocities of the Holocaust or the lessons of strength and perseverance of the Jewish people.” The presidents are Colin Silverman, 91st Grand Aleph Godol (International President) of AZA, and Lauren Keats, 71st International N’siah (International President) of BBG.

“A Shabbat to Remember” was first introduced in July at BBYO’s International Kallah where eight Holocaust survivors joined an international community of hundreds of teens in learning, singing and dancing. Throughout the weekend, the teens had the opportunity to hear the survivors’ stories and to commit to share them with future generations.

The Global Shabbat celebrations in Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and around the world were a continuation of this meaningful experience.

BBYO is the leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in meaningful Jewish experiences. For more than 90 years, BBYO’s leadership programs the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA, high school fraternity) and the B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG, high school sorority) have been providing exceptional leadership programs and identity enrichment experiences, shaping the confidence and character of more than 400,000 alumni who are among the most prominent figures in business, politics, academia, the arts and Jewish communal life. Now, BBYO’s network of Jewish teens, alumni, parents, volunteers and philanthropists serves as the Jewish community’s most valuable platform for delivering to the post Bar/Bat Mitzvah audience fun, meaningful and affordable experiences. With year-round activities in hundreds of local communities and inspiring worldwide travel experiences, BBYO’s broad program menu enables teens to explore areas of leadership, service, civic engagement, Israel education and Jewish values.

SAMANTHA WALSH, MSW, is regional director of BBYO New England. For more information, please contact her at 401-490-1030 or swalsh@bbyo.org.