Over the years I've had the opportunity to develop a friendship with Hava Ben-Zvi, a survivor of the Holocaust, who has spoken to many of our Facing History classes. Hava is one of my heroes, not just for her story of survival and resilience as a young girl hiding from the Nazis in Poland. She is my hero because even though her education was interrupted during the war, she went on to immigrate to Israel, and then the U.S. where she became an educator, and a librarian. She wrote a memoir of her experience, Eva's Journey, and in her 80s she published, Portraits in Literature: The Jews of Poland, an Anthology, which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.
Most of all, I love Hava's generous spirit with students. Last year, she visited Nicole Solig's 10th grade class at the Los Angeles School of Global Studies, (LASGS) across the street from our office in downtown. When she tells her story, you can see the teacher in Hava coming through, the way she engages with the students, asking THEM questions and listening so carefully to their responses. A few weeks after the LASGS visit, I received a letter in the mail from Hava, which she has given me permission to share. It sums up what happens when students are given the tools, trust and time to wrestle with this history:
April 8, 2012
Dear LASGS 10th Graders,
Thank you so much for your thoughtful, impressive letters. Each one of your precious letters is a testimony to who you are and will be. Many of your words and expressions warmed my heart:
That one hour visit was the spark of an ongoing reflection about Hava's story, and her engagement with the students. This fall one of our themes has been the act of listening, and I can't think of a better example of what happens when people truly listen to each other--the students to Hava, and her gift back to them of hearing what they had to say.
How do you bring voices from history to your students--both in person and through other means?
Hava is featured in our Survivor Voices section that includes photos from her life, connections and more.