2013: My Year with the Holocaust Educational Trust

I wrote this blog towards the end of 2013, primarily for the Holocaust Educational Trust's website, where it will hopefully appear soon. My motivation for this blog was to inspire other young people to seize every opportunity they have, and take risks with the chances they get, because they really can turn into bigger, better things.

Meeting Prime Minister David Cameron in September 2013. Credit: Blake Ezra Photography

When I received an email from the Holocaust Educational Trust in December 2012 containing an application to become a Regional Ambassador for the organisation, I knew it was an opportunity I could not pass up. Since taking part in the Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project in 2009, I have retained the passion to educate others about the Holocaust and the important life lessons it can teach us, and had kept in touch with the Trust since completing my Next Steps Project. I was delighted, therefore, to be accepted as a Regional Ambassador for the West Midlands, where I was studying at the time.

The last twelve months have confirmed, above and beyond, that applying for the role was absolutely the right thing to do. As a group, the Trust’s Regional Ambassadors have participated in events and visits that I never imagined I would have the chance to be involved in. The three Regional Ambassador Days enabled us to discuss our own plans and the future of the Ambassador Programme in inspiring venues such as the capital’s Jewish Museum, Central Synagogue and Imperial War Museum. The Ambassador Conference in London in July officially launched the Ambassador Programme, and the 500-strong audience of young people showed that the Holocaust has not been forgotten in the UK. Furthermore, it emphasised that many Ambassadors are pledging their commitment to raising awareness of the Holocaust long after completing the Lessons from Auschwitz Project. Regional Ambassadors were also invited to a reception in the Houses of Parliament after the conference, where we could share our experiences and ambitions with politicians, Holocaust survivors and other distinguished guests.
Several Regional Ambassadors attended the Trust’s annual Appeal Dinner in September, talking to beneficiaries and supporters of the Trust about the events that we had attended – and created – over the course of the year. I was also one of the lucky few that had a brief chat with the guest speaker, Prime Minister David Cameron! A few of us also featured in this year’s Appeal Film, speaking to Holocaust survivors about their experiences and how it is now up to the younger generation to pass on their testimonies. I was humbled to be a part of the film and to be able to personally thank Holocaust survivor Mala Tribich who, as just one of many survivors, still shares her story with young people across the UK.
The big event of the year, however, was the Trust’s first Ambassador Study Visit, which took place in Israel. Around twenty Regional Ambassadors undertook a five-day course in Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum and memorial, as well as taking excursions to the Old City of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Tel Aviv, and immersing ourselves in the Jewish culture by attending a synagogue service (with Friday night dinner afterwards!). The entire programme was enriching and stimulating, and helped to expand our knowledge on both Judaism and the Holocaust; after all, where better to study such subjects than in the heart of the Jewish state?

Our group in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, July 2013

On a more personal level, however, 2013 has been something of a life-changing year for me, and the Trust has had a large part in my decision-making. Towards the end of my Bachelor’s degree, when I was considering what to do next, I heard about an MA course in Holocaust Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, led by Professors David Cesarani and Dan Stone, both renowned experts in the study of the Holocaust. With my passion for Holocaust education, and wishing to further increase my knowledge, I knew that this was the course for me. I began the course in September of this year.
Additionally, through and with the support of the Trust, I have participated in a variety of different events throughout the year. I spoke alongside David Miliband and Daniel Finkelstein at the annual Lord Merlyn-Rees lecture; gave a presentation on the future of Holocaust education in a Jewish elderly residents’ care centre; addressed future Ambassadors before they embarked on their Next Steps projects, and even accompanied a Lessons from Auschwitz Project trip to the former concentration camp in February as a member of the logistics staff. I have also had the privilege of organising Holocaust survivor talks at universities in the West Midlands; my current project, West Midlands Remembers, aims to share the testimony of six different survivors at six different institutions. The first of these took place in October at The University of Birmingham, from which I am now an alumnus, with Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE. The feedback I received from the event was overwhelmingly positive and I am looking forward to hosting the rest in the near future.

In its 25th year, the Holocaust Educational Trust’s focus has very much been on the future of Holocaust education and how we can equip the younger generation to take on the responsibility of teaching others about the dangers of hatred, prejudice and bystander behaviour when survivors are no longer with us. The launch of the Ambassador Programme and the plethora of events created by the Trust this year further underline the organisation’s dedication and commitment to this cause. I know I speak for all the Regional Ambassadors when I express my admiration and gratitude to everyone at the Trust for their continuing hard work, creativity and initiative.
Holocaust education in the UK has come so far in the last 25 years and the Trust is largely to thank for that. Therefore, I am looking forward to not just the next year, but the next 25 years; whatever challenges we face in the future, the Trust will approach them head-on, and I have been inspired to do the same. We owe it to the future generations of this country but, above all, we owe it to those who survived the Holocaust, and who still share their testimony in our schools and communities today.