Acclaimed Holocaust scholar and award-winning film producer Dr. Michael Berenbaum spoke to Jewish students in New York Tuesday, urging them to "cherish" their unique position as the last generation to be able to speak to holocaust survivors.
Dr. Berembaum returned to the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys, where he has worked with student activists for six years to instruct seniors on technical skills, as well as the gravity and privilege of interviewing and filming Holocaust survivors as part of the Names Not Numbers program.
"We are at a transitional moment," Berenbaum told the group. "You are of the last generation to be in the presence of survivors. Cherish it and do something important with it."
The Names Not Numbers program was developed in 2003 by Tova Rosenberg, director of Hebrew language studies at the Yeshiva University High Schools. The initiative teaches students the skills they need to produce videos of the oral testimonies of Holocaust survivors that are then compiled into a documentary film to preserve them for future generations.
Hundreds of students, survivors and World War II veterans have participated in the program to date.
Berenbaum, a former Project Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, has collected numerous awards for his films memorializing the Holocaust, including two Academy Awards and an Emmy.
"They had the courage to recreate life," said Berenbaum of the Holocaust survivors.
"Keep a sympathetic poker face," he advised. "Figure out a question that elicits the experience. Ask about before, during and after. Before they were victims they were people."
But most importantly of all, he stressed: "Listen, listen, listen."