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Nov 21, 2022

Young Lion of Judah Program Offers B’nai Mitzvah Teens a Meaningful Volunteer Experience

“I see him at temple or at the Holocaust Memorial and he tells me, 'You are the future generation. You are the voice.'” This is what Ella Pelz says about her dear friend, Holocaust Survivor David Schaecter, who partnered with Ella for her Young Lion of Judah service project. Pelz, now 16 years old and a fourth-generation survivor, is an alumna of the Young Lion of Judah Program, which pairs B’nai Mitzvah students with Holocaust Survivors to foster intergenerational friendships and perpetuate Survivor storytelling. “I finally got a better understanding of the Holocaust by speaking with someone firsthand,” says Pelz, who found the experience incredibly meaningful.

The next session of the Young Lion of Judah Program, offered through Federation’s Jewish Volunteer Center (JVC) and the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, will run December 11-February 26 for students becoming B’nai Mitzvah before August 2023 and wishing to complete up to 10 hours of community service. In addition to attending education seminars at the Holocaust Memorial, participants will meet with a Survivor to learn their story and how to relay it to others. A second Young Lion of Judah option allows students to volunteer on their own schedule at local organizations, synagogues, school, social service agencies and community events. Pelz treasures the bond she formed with her Survivor partner, noting, “I feel like so much of what he told me I’ll carry with me forever.”

Pelz, who was always passionate about learning about the Shoah, has now learned not to shy from discussing it. “I feel like it’s my responsibility (to talk about it),” she says, “not just as a fourth-generation survivor and a Jew, but as a citizen. If not, history is going to repeat itself." Her favorite part of the program was the meaningful connection she made with her Survivor partner. At her Bat Mitzvah, he surprised her on the bima and spoke about their special bond. “We had a connection then and four years later, we still have a connection.”

For an application, or to learn more, contact JVC Director Lori Tabachnikoff at ltabachnikoff@gmjf.org.

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