Monday, April 15, 2013

A Message from the Third Generation

Young Friend and Communications Department alumna Julie L. Cohen was chosen to deliver the message from the Third Generation at last week's Annual Gathering of Remembrance. She spoke eloquently about the importance of grandchildren of Holocaust survivors embracing their legacy, and she identified 3GNY and the Young Friends of the Museum of Jewish Heritage as two organizations that fulfill this mandate. But we'll let Julie tell you in her own words. Here is her speech:

I would like to thank the Museum of Jewish Heritage, WAGRO, and the American Gathering for inviting me to participate in this special commemoration.  I am honored to share my thoughts and experience as part of the third generation with everyone here this afternoon.
 For as long as I can remember, the Holocaust has been an ever-present factor in my life.  My grandmother, Mira Bauer, spoke often about her experience during the war, especially her dangerous two week trek across Poland to the doorstep of her mother’s best friend, the righteous gentile, who would shelter her for two years.  However, only from occasional comments, did I learn that my grandfather, Israel Bauer, and his young nephew had jumped from a moving transport headed to a death camp.  They hid, cold and hungry, deep in the forest for nine months.  For school projects, I took every opportunity to write about my grandparents’ experiences and their affect on my life -- It never occurred to me to write about anything else.
 Dr. Rivka Bekerman-Greenberg entitled her film about grand-daughters of survivors -- “I am Carrying the Holocaust in my Pocket.” I can understand why.  No matter where I am or what I’m doing -- the echoes of my family’s experience influence my actions
and world view.
            In college, I was privileged to participate in the Lipper Internship program, where I taught middle and high school students about the Holocaust, and guided them through the Museum’s core exhibition.  This experience crystallized for me the importance of Holocaust education, and of the third generation’s responsibility to honor our grandparents’ legacy.  Two inspiring years of full-time work at the Museum convinced me to eventually volunteer my time and effort in this area.
            A recent UJA study revealed that 73% of New York’s young adult Jews consider “remembering the Holocaust” to be a big part of their Jewish identity.  I realized that it was not a question of whether the third generation wants to be involved, but of how we can get involved in a hands-on way.  We want to devote our time, money and effort to meaningful causes that will have an impact on the world.
I know that those representing the 18 young leadership organizations volunteering here today also understand this mandate.  On behalf of the Museum, I’d like to thank you for your participation.  I’m fortunate to work with two groups that take these goals to heart.
   In 2005, I joined with other founding members to create “3G New York,” a non-profit bringing together grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.  Now 1,500 members strong, we hold Shabbat dinners, film screenings, volunteer opportunities and social gatherings. Survivors share their stories at our annual intergenerational brunch. Our most ambitious educational program to date empowers grandchildren to learn our family histories and to share them in school classrooms.  We have reached more than one thousand students in over fifty schools in the New York area – and this is just the beginning.  As the conduits for our grandparents’ stories, we eliminate the generation gap and help students understand this tragic chapter in our history.  3Gs share a strong desire to connect and mobilize.  From Boston to Melbourne, many other local 3G groups have formed across the country and the world, engaging their respective communities.
             I first became involved with the Young Friends group as a member of the Museum staff in my early 20s.  I’ve met many grandchildren of survivors at events over the years, and I continue to be impressed with the large number of young people who gather to support the Museum’s important mission.  It’s powerful exhibitions, moving stories and treasured artifacts bring our grandparents’ experiences to life.  This is what sets the Young Friends apart from other similar groups in the area -- the beautiful and meaningful institution with a wealth of history and culture that it calls home.  There is no other place like this in New York, and no better place to serve as the center of activity for the third generation.
 My grandmother passed away only two short months ago at age 94.  I am grateful that she shared her stories, life lessons and wisdom with me, and that I was able to tell her about my involvement with the Young Friends and 3GNY.  I find great fulfillment in participating in these groups, and continue to form strong bonds and lasting friendships through them.  I urge you to encourage your children and grandchildren to get involved with a local 3G group.  After all, it’s now our responsibility to pass our grandparents’ legacy on to the fourth generation.  In that way, we will not only continue to honor the martyrs and survivors – but we will also give you many reasons to “Shep Nachas” just as my grandparents did for me.
 Thank you.

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