There are certain things few people can talk about, and discussing the Holocaust is one topic many have a hard time finding the words to discuss in public.
But Jack Ifrah, 13, isn't one of those people.
Jack has spent the last few months studying the Holocaust as part of his Mitzvah project. Eager to learn more, Jack joined a California-based organization called "Remember Us" that pairs students with a child killed in the Holocaust that was never able to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah.
Since then he started writing a monthly article in "The Scribe", the newsletter of the JCC of Harrison, entitled "Never Again". He has also contributed to a JCC section of the Harrison Library by donating books and DVDs on the subject and began to speak to local groups about what he has learned about the Holocaust during his experiences.
Jack was invited to be one of the speakers for the Yom Hashoah Community Commemoration in Rye on April 18th, 2012. The program involved the Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester, Congregation KTI, and The Jewish Community Center of Harrison.
Bravely addressing the difficult issue in front of a large audience, Jack delivered a moving speech.
Below Jack's article entitled "Never Again", provided by his parents:
I became aware of the Holocaust when I was 9 years old after my parents took me to see the movie “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas.” I was struck by how horrible Hitler and The Holocaust were, and I was determined to learn as much about the subject as I could. As soon as I got home, I “googled” the words “The Holocaust,” and read dozens of articles about the atrocities that were committed. After a request of my Hebrew School teacher, for taking a position of the Holocaust Studies in our Kadima group at the JCC of Harrison, I started my personal journey of intensive study of the Holocaust. Even though I do not have any family members that perished in the Holocaust, I have always been concerned that Jewish history and stories from that time would get lost.
My parents and I visited the holocaust museums in Israel and New York. I also read several books and saw a few movies about The Holocaust. I decided to participate with the Remember Us organization. The Organization, based in California, invites every child who is preparing for a bar or bat Mitzvah, to remember a child who lost their life in The Holocaust. I twinned with Shaya Shaikovski, of blessed memory, a Ukrainian child of the holocaust who was murdered at age 5. He never lived to celebrate his own bar mitzvah. On February 4th this year, I celebrated my bar mitzvah in his memory.
It is impossible to comprehend the number six million or even the number one million, which is how many Jewish children were murdered during the Holocaust. Each number represents a person, like Shaya, a family, and a future that never took place. I know in my family there are four children. I love my siblings and my family very much and cannot imagine a life without them. I know I am blessed and take for granted the fact that I can live and celebrate a full and rich Jewish life with my siblings, parents, grandparents, friends, and beyond. So, in order to try to comprehend the enormity of just one million, I added up every single person that I know from my immediate and extended family, camp friends, counselors and staff, neighbors, school friends, teachers and staff, Hebrew school, music camp, doctors, storekeepers, and my parents’ friends. I arrived at the sum of 1,017 people.
In my entire life, I know only one-tenth of one percent of the Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust. The things I learned and the atrocities that were committed against the Jewish people and children are inconceivable and indescribable. I read that the Holocaust was an event that is both unprecedented and unparalleled in human history, which is why it was called genocide.
Having absorbed all of this information, the obvious question is, what do I do with it? Although, the answer to me is not 100 percent clear, I hope now that I am entering Jewish adulthood, I can be a strong advocate and support for the Jewish people in the future. I recently began writing a monthly column about the Holocaust in ”The Scribe,” the JCCH newsletter. I have heard that on college campuses there are lots of students and even professors who deny that the Holocaust ever happened. I hope that I can stand up to them. Knowledge is power and I now have a lot of knowledge to share in defense of the Jewish people.