My Experience: Why I Will Be A Torchbearer To Future Generations

By Sarah Cohen Kassin, 2019 Luce 24 Under 24 Award Recipient

Brooklyn, N.Y.  I am petrified. Not for you, not for me, but for future generations. I fear the day when there will be no more Holocaust survivors, no more witnesses to the tragedy. People will begin to take advantage of these deaths and deny that the Holocaust ever happened. The possibility of six million Jews and millions of others being forgotten is revolting. It ties my stomach in knots and sends shivers down my spine.

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This is the reason I must take the responsibility upon myself to get as much information as I can from the survivors… the witnesses… those who were there. I feel a heavy obligation to be a second-hand witness for future generations.

I remember the day it all began, the day I took the obligation upon myself, the day my curiosity for what really happened grew. As a fourteen-year-old girl, I walked through the doors of the Yad Vashem Museum in Israel, mesmerized as I paid attention to every small detail. One of the most disturbing things I saw was a long braid that was brutally cut off a little girl’s head. The Nazis took her hair, and even more importantly, took her pride. 

From that day on, I couldn’t stop reading anything and everything about the Holocaust. I began reading novels about kids, teenagers, and adults, who were either survivors or helpful gentiles. I gained a lot from what I read and the stories stuck with me, I still felt like I was missing something. I would close the book or walk out of a museum, still thirsty for something more. 

When I heard about the Witness Theater Program, it hit me. That was what I needed! Witness Theater is a program that encourages interaction between students and survivors who meet once a week for two hours after school. I found what I had been searching for.

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I wanted to hear the stories directly from the people that had endured the massacres and tortures. I wanted to hear about how their skin brushed against barracks, how their bare feet were moments away from the gas chambers, or how their hair held on for dear life to their dear heads. I wanted to be able to hold their tortured hands to let them know that I was and would always be there for them. 

Now, six years later, it is no longer a reunion when I see the Survivors, these are my friends. Not only my friends, but my best friends. There’s Sabina Green, 97, Sol Goldberg, 93, Toby Levy, 86, Aditha Avishai, 80, Rina Nudel, 87, Trudy Tajerstein, 86, and the late Hy Abrams. They are the ones I not only learned the most from but laugh the most with as well. The ones I look up to. The ones that occupy a very special place in my heart.

How did they do it? How did they hold on to Hope? Courage? Faith? Not only did they suffer through the war, but also afterwards, they found out their families have perished. But they made it. Not only did they make it, they made sure to get the most out of the life they were left with. Making each moment count and teaching us to do the same. Not letting a day go by without thanking God for waking them up again.

I learned from them that the little things that annoy us in life really do not matter. How can I complain about a stupid little thing after seeing these survivors positive as can be after going through such tragedy? How dare I? There is no reason not to be positive. There is no reason not to hold on to hope. There is no reason not to make the most of the life we were given. 

As the survivors shared their stories with me, and as I witnessed their existence over the years, I realized that beyond their tragic history lies lessons we can learn from these amazing human beings who pulled through to build beautifully successful lives. They constantly express their appreciation for life and pay their gratitude by earning more life. They eat right, remain active and exercise, stimulate their minds, participate in meditative prayer, and spend their days gifting others priceless knowledge through their words and their living examples.

They are my role models and have inspired me to make the most of each day and to make the most of the one life we were given.

 I have been inspired and want to pass on the knowledge they’ve given me to make a positive influence on this world. I will be the leader, the torchbearer. I will be the book for others. I will pass on these stories to future generations. Not only their stories, but the lessons I’ve learned from each and every one of the survivors. I will tell their histories to children, to teens, to adults, to everyone. They will never be forgotten. Not their stories, not their lessons… not their souls. My participation in Witness Theater has given me the knowledge to keep the flame burning… brightly. No one can ever put me out; I won’t let them. 

Sarah Cohen Kassin
Sarah got her inspiration of uplifting our young generation from her participation in Witness Theater that has given her the knowledge to appreciate life and always keeps the hope to make the most of the life we were given.

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About The J. Luce Foundation
The Mission of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation, Inc. (www.LuceFoundation.org) is to support young global leadership impacting positive social change, particularly in the fields of the Arts, Education and Orphan Care. Related charities include Orphans International Worldwide (OIW) and The New York Global Leaders Lions Club, both founded by Jim Luce, born July 24, 1959. 

See:
 July 24th, J. Luce Foundations 20th Annual Summer Soirée (7/19)
‘Luce 24 Under 24’ Summer Soirée Set for July 24 at the China Institute (6/19)
J. Luce Foundation Announces First ‘Luce 24 Under 24’ Awards (5/19)
J. Luce Leadership Team Lauded by Forbes, Gates, Ford Foundation (9/18)

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The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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