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Yom HaShoah: Visas For Life Project

Toshimi Abe-Janiga, US Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow from the Palm Beach school system, spoke to Posnack Lower School students about Chuine Sugihara, the Japanese vice-consul in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania who saved between 10,000-40,000 Jews by issuing transit visas.

The “Visas For Life,” Yom HaShoah program, began with a planning session by Hebrew/Judaic staff at which Rabbi Steinberg talked about his grandfather and how he and thousands of Jews from Lithuania and Poland were saved by, Mr. Sugihara.

Mrs. Camille Benjamin, our Lower School Director of Hebrew/Judaics spent the month of December doing research on Sugihara. She found a book, appropriate for our 5th grade students to read that explained this life saying effort by Sugihara. The secular teachers quickly joined in on the project and with the help of our fabulous PTO, each 5th grade student received a copy of the book.

Mrs. Benjamin, with assistance from her son, was able to contact the Japanese Embassy here in South Florida. They put her in contact with Mrs. Abe-Janiga. She is an expert on Sugihara and enthusiastically offered to be part of our program.

Mrs. Abe-Janiga told us of  her own Holocaust project: Visas For Life. As part of this project, students in Japan, Lithuania and now Posnack School write Visas for Life. These visas are written by the students. The “visas” are sent to be placed in the home where Mr. Sugihara lived while serving as Japanese consul.

The Yom HaShoah assembly featured Rabbi Elchonon Abramchik, born in Shanghai where by then thousands of Jews had been saved by Mr. Sugihara. He related the story how his parents were saved by Sugihara with visas to Curacao (the fake destination on the official visas). Mrs. Abe-Janiga then had a separate hands-on learning session with our 5th grade. She was grateful and honored for being part of our Yom HaShoah program. She told us that Posnack School is the first Jewish school to be part of her Visas For Life Project.

Thanks to all who made this Yom HaShoah truly meaningful for our entire Lower School.