Teaching ‘The Holocaust Survivor’s Anthem’ to the next generation

November 9, 2017 by  
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“On Yom Hashoah, many Holocaust survivors sing ‘Zog Nit Keynmol’ – The Partisan Song. However, a decline in survivors has meant that the song was being lost to history,” explains Australian educator Eli Rabinowitz, who is working to reverse this by teaching the song and the original poem to school children around the globe, in their home language…writes Tali Feinberg.

ORT Solomo Aleichem, Vilnius

“The motivation behind the project is to educate and give meaning to The Partisan Song – its historical context, significance and inspiration, and to continue the legacy of the partisans, together with those in the ghettos and camps, and the survivors,” he says.

The project has been endorsed by 95-year-old Holocaust survivor Philip Maisel, who was a friend of the poem’s author, Hirsh Glik, and was one of the first people to hear it! World ORT in London was quick to recognise its impact, and compiled a video featuring ten of their schools in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) singing the Partisan Song in Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian.

Schools in the FSU, Mexico, Australia and South Africa have also begun teaching the song as part of their school programmes. An online classroom hosted by Rabinowitz at Herzlia High School in Cape Town linked up with five schools in the FSU means that technology is propelling the poem into the future; and he has even shown YouTube clips of it in heavy metal and Japanese!

Atzalynas High School Kedainiai, Lithuania

Educators, parents and students are recognising the potential of the project, as Dr Tamara Tolley of the UK wrote in a letter to Perth-based Rabinowitz: “I think this provides an important educational opportunity to teach children about the Holocaust through a musical experience. I particularly like the way in which schools from around the world learnt the song and participated in an online interactive singing experience. This is incredibly exciting and I would like my children’s school to be involved in the next event of this kind.”

Rabinowitz has made this easy by creating a free lesson plan, available on his website, enabling teachers and learners to work through the Partisan Song using a more structured approach. The plan can be used in History, English or Jewish Studies classes. Related creative activities include art, writing, multimedia and music.

Zog Nit Keynmol has been the anthem or hymn of the Partisans and Holocaust survivors for 75 years, and as a poem, should be included in every anthology of Holocaust poetry,” emphasises Rabinowitz.

He hopes that this will mean that it is recited or sung at commemoration ceremonies on Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January 2018. You can help by encouraging your schools, youth movements, synagogues and other parents to encourage children to learn the song.

Rabinowitz’s ultimate vision for the project is to help the next generation embrace the survivors’ legacy by learning the Partisan Song. “The words represent hope, heroes, and spirited resistance. Standing up for what is right is something we hope our children are taught and will practice. The poem’s message is still relevant today and resonates with our youth.”

Encouraging responses have been received from the offices of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

To learn more and download the free study guide, visit elirab.me and look under the headings ‘Zog Nit Keynmol’, ‘Don’t Give Up Hope’ and ‘A Lesson Plan’

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