We at TanenbaumCHAT are very lucky. We have dedicated teachers, hardworking students, and supportive parents. We also have a team of shlichim who find ways to connect our students to Israel in class, between classes, weeknights, and weekends.
Last year, Shlomi and Yaara brought to TanenbaumCHAT a program that started seven years ago in Israel called Zikaron Basalon, literally “Living Room Memories.” It’s a more intimate way to commemorate Yom HaShoah in which survivors share their stories with a small group of people in someone’s home. A year ago, nine families hosted a survivor, and over 120 students participated.
I had the honour of facilitating one session at Elyanna and Ami Wenner’s home. Our speaker was Sylvia Goodman. Mrs. Goodman taught French at TanenbaumCHAT for many years, but more importantly, she is Elyanna and Ami’s grandmother.
Mrs. Goodman was born in Brussels, the capital of Belgium. At age two, she was separated from her parents and hidden by an elderly Gentile couple who passed her off as their granddaughter. Mrs. Goodman’s parents were sent to the the Malin (Mechelen) transit camp in Belgium which was liberated just before they were to be sent to Auschwitz.At the end of the war, Sylvia was reunited with her parents, and in 1951 she came to Canada with her parents who sought an English speaking country (the US wasn’t accepting many immigrants at the time).
Mrs. Goodman recalled what life was like as a child. She helped us imagine how painful it was for her parents to give up their daughter and how her surrogate grandparents helped ensure that she would successfully re-integrate into her parents’ embrace. We all admired the way she maintained a positive attitude despite these and other traumatic experiences. To this day, she is always cheerful and upbeat. You can see the sparkle in her eyes from the photo of her with the students; it captures her smiling personality.
The hour passed quickly. Like any good teacher, she didn’t just lecture; she asked questions along the way. The students listened with rapt attention. They, too, asked questions. Often, Yom Hashoah invokes a heavy mood. That night, we left inspired. We were inspired by Mrs. Goodman’s courage and by her instinctive affirmation of life.
This year, Zikaron Basalon will take place on Monday evening for the TCK community and on Tuesday evening for the TCW community. We encourage students to make the time to be part of these “Living Room Memories” and meet these inspiring heroes from our community.