Volunteer Work

“Years of Childhood, How You Live in My Memory!” Yiddish Folksinging: A Unique Volunteering Project with Holocaust Survivors

The Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies is proud to offer our students the opportunity to volunteer and work with Holocaust Survivors in various ways. Our students come to the program with their unique talents and interests. We are proud to have many connections and partnerships in the Haifa community that allow our students to pursue and develop projects that fit their own interests and meet the needs of various organizations. Through our partnership with Amcha: The Israeli Center for Holocaust Survivors and Second Generation, many of our students spend an hour each week visiting with a Holocaust Survivor. This year, a new program was created based on the particular talents of our student Janusz Flakus. This program was a tremendous success and we are proud to give him the spotlight to share his work and experience:

Ten years ago in a small bookshop in Krakow I bought my first album with a collection of Yiddish folksongs, which sparked my years-long passion for traditional Yiddish songs. I see each of them as a “time capsule” that not only tells a story of the pre-war Jewish life in Eastern Europe but also makes it possible for us today to connect emotionally to the authentic human experiences “contained” and conveyed by the song’s lyrics and music. As a student of the Weiss-Livnat MA Program in Holocaust studies I was given the opportunity to use my passion for Yiddish folksongs as well as my performing skills to undertake a special volunteering project at “Amcha” Center for Holocaust Survivors. I volunteered to lead a weekly Yiddish sing-along sessions for Holocaust survivors living in Haifa. Every Thursday morning for more than two months I met with a small group of survivors to sing Yiddish folksongs and sometimes even to dance to klezmer music. It was definitely one of the most rewarding and moving experiences that I had while studying and living in Israel. As I sang with the survivors and accompanied them on a guitar, I witnessed how a seemingly simple song can evoke precious and sometimes long-forgotten memories of their childhood years, of their relatives, of the place they were born and grew up. Through the medium of song, the survivors were able to “re-enter” and re-connect with the pre-war world of their childhood. They would often remark that the songs bring back memories of their mothers who used to sing them when they were children. The song that made the strongest emotional impact on the survivors was the poignant and nostalgic song about growing old entitled “Kinder Yorn” (Childhood Years). Almost at every session, one of the survivors would ask if we can sing this particular song and after singing it they would turn to me saying: “This song tells the truth… It is the story of my life…”

                            By Janusz Flakus

Lyrics from the song “Kinder Yorn:”

Years of childhood, how you live in my memory! When I think of those time, I realize how quickly I have grown old. I can still see the little house where I was born and raised, and my beloved mother. I can still feel her pinches although the marks they made are long gone. 

IMG_1659 IMG_1670 IMG_1656 IMG_1657We are proud to see the positive impact our students are already having in various areas of the field of Holocaust Studies, and we look forward to seeing what they will do in the future.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/


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