Holocaust survivors share stories of resilience with Palm Beach County high school students

'I feel like this was a really meaningful experience for myself and my peers,' Ross Kantor says
Posted at 6:05 PM, Nov 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-06 18:05:16-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — As war rages on in Israel, today begins Holocaust Education Week in the state of Florida.

In Palm Beach County, 250 high school students from various schools in the county met with 25 Holocaust survivors to hear their stories.

This is an annual event for the School District of Palm Beach County and the Holocaust Education Organization inSIGHT, to bring students and survivors together. But this year's timing was even more impactful.

Survivors met with students in small groups, sharing their stories over lunch. Zelda Fuksman is one of the eight percent of Jewish children across Europe that survived the Holocaust. Her big question to the students was, what is the lesson of the Holocaust doing for you?

Park Vista High School student Ross Kantor Holocaust Education Week November 2023
Park Vista High School student Ross Kantor explains how speaking with Holocaust survivors has given him a different perspective on war in Israel.

Fuksman has shared her story at school events for years.

"I do not have wealth. I don't have anything I can leave for the future," she said. "If I can have these young people understand the kind of power they have to make the world better, that's my gift."

Park Vista High School student Ross Kantor attended the event.

"Obviously there's a lot going on in the world right now," Kantor said, "so I feel like this was a really meaningful experience for myself and my peers."

He said hearing from the survivors firsthand is giving him a new perspective on the war in Israel.

Holocaust survivor Zelda Fuksman Holocaust Education Week November 2023.png
Holocaust survivor Zelda Fuksman explains why she shares her story of resilence with students.

"As an American-Jewish person, it was really unnerving and it's scary, but this kind of opened my eyes that it has happened before and we have persevered and we can persevere again," he said. "When we are reading from a textbook or watching a movie, it's not going to have the same emphasis as talking to somebody who quite literally has been through it."

For Dwyer student Rhegan Allen, sitting with Fuksman is encouraging her to understand more about what's happening around the world.

"I'm so much more interested in learning about what's going on, how its effecting the people of the community and everything about it," she said.

She said before this event, she only knew one perspective of the Holocaust. She jumped at the opportunity to attend the event.

"This is something that not many people are going to be able to do," she said. "One day when my kids have kids, and so on, no one is going to be able to say they were able to do this."

Dwyer student Rhegan Allen Holocaust Education Week November 2023
Dwyer student Rhegan Allen explains how she is gaining so much knowledge from Holocaust survivors in a once in a lifetime experience.

Fuksman said her experiences are getting harder to talk about as she gets older.

"I have a certain pain in my heart. Why? Why are the Jews being singled out? The antisemitism that is growing now, because of the war in Israel," she said.

Her lasting message to the students is don't cry for me, learn from me.

"I kind of try and instill in them the power of who they are, that's what I come to tell them, that they are very special," Fuksman said. "It's not about my story. It's about how my story can inspire them to be better than the world did to us.