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3rd Generation and Beyond

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Posted on 03/20/2013 @ 11:32 AM

caje melton banner logo MELTON MOTIVATES 3RD GENERATION DESCENDANT OF SURVIVORS TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT HER GRANDPARENTS’ LIFE LESSONS

When Danna Pycher, now 26 years old, returned from an amazing experience in Israel through Taglit-Birthright Israel and went looking for the next step in her Jewish journey, she sought out the Birthright NEXT coordinator at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, who urged her to take classes at the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning. Sponsored in Miami by the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) in partnership with many Miami-Dade synagogues and Jewish Community Centers, “Melton,” as it’s commonly known, is a place to explore Jewish culture and thought through a sophisticated curriculum for adults that emphasizes interactive learning, student empowerment and outstanding teaching.

In her evening Melton classes, Danna began re-engaging with her Judaism from an adult perspective: “For the first time, Judaism made sense to me. And the more it made sense, the more I started honoring its wisdom. And because my Melton teachers were fascinated by Judaism, their passion ignited something in me. Also learning from an adult perspective was so different and so much more valuable. I could finally appreciate what Judaism is about—its wisdom, its depth, how relevant it still is.”

Towards the end of her second semester of learning, Danna saw a flyer for a Melton course entitled The Holocaust as Reflected in Diaries and Memoirs and thought about the unfinished manuscript in her drawer telling the story of her paternal grandparents, who were survivors of the Shoah [the Hebrew word for Holocaust]. And even though the class was being held on a Wednesday morning at Temple Sinai of North Dade, a 45 minute drive from home and during the work day, she decided to sample it but then stayed for two full semesters.

“The Melton class changed everything for me,” Danna noted. “I had had the idea of writing a book when I was traveling through Germany during college, but hadn’t followed through. My Melton learning empowered and energized me to see how necessary and important this work really is. Reading memoirs and diaries made the enormity of the Shoah more real, more human, more heroic. We learned about women and children who resisted and about the profound strength of the Jewish people, even when faced with an impossible situation.”

Danna also credits her teacher, Dr. Miriam Klein Kassenoff, the Education Specialist for Holocaust Studies for Miami-Dade County Public Schools and an internationally known Holocaust educator/author, as well as the other members of her class with inspiring her: “They encouraged and challenged me by asking-- What will happen with the next generation? Why will people care when the survivors pass on? I had always dreamed of disseminating my grandparents’ life lessons, really becoming an activist for humanity. I wanted to inspire kids to be good people, because when you’re upset by the way you were treated, it’s easier to mistreat and bully others. If I could show them examples of people who overcame adversity, then maybe I could touch people and they would change for the better.”

The result is 3rd Generation and Beyond, a book of powerful life philosophies designed to make people think twice about who they are, what their role in society is, and how we can all empower each other. With each chapter, a new lesson is intermingled with Danna’s grandparents’ inspiring stories and her own life lessons. The funding for publication was generously given by one of Danna’s Melton classmates, Lynne Wassermann.

“This book is so different from any other Holocaust-themed books I’ve ever read,” remarks Rabbi Efrat Zarren-Zohar, CAJE’s Director of Adult Learning and Growth as well as a Regional Director on the national staff of the Florence Melton School. “First, it’s specifically geared for young adults; each chapter is about 3-4 pages long and concentrates on one lesson, so it keeps kid’s attention and is perfect for sparking deep discussions. Second, it doesn’t go into too many of the horrible details about the Holocaust, so it makes the reader of any age curious to learn more. The way Danna tells her and her grandparents’ stories keeps the Shoah relevant and digestible for young people so they can feel inspired to use the bad that happens in the world and in our own lives and turn it into doing good.”

For further information about The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning and its courses as well as other adult education learning opportunities, visit www.caje-miami.org/melton, call #305-776-7925, email carlaspector@caje-miami.org.

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