Students at Fasman Yeshiva High School premiered their highly anticipated screening of “Names, Not Numbers” on Tuesday, March 26th at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie. The student-produced film was the product of a high school course that taught interviewing, storytelling, and media production skills through the distinct lens of Holocaust education. The initial screening attracted 700 people, including Yeshiva students, faculty, parents, and other community members.
The “Names, Not Numbers” program was chaired by Mrs. Avigail Schechter, and is run by founder Tova Fish-Rosenberg, currently the Director of Hebrew Language and Special Programs at Yeshiva University High Schools, and who has been intimately involved in the Jewish community throughout her career. Her program brings students into first-hand contact with the filmmaking process, and under the direction of skilled advisors and professionals, prepares them for the interviews and the necessary steps required for producing a meaningful documentary. In preparation for the Fasman Yeshiva program, a curriculum was prepared for the students who employed the processes of interviewing techniques, oral history, documentary film tools, internet research, editing, and Holocaust history.
Mrs. Rosenberg joined the Fasman students at the premiere and emphasized the importance of the students’ work in her remarks. “The students, through their project, are continuing the pledge that was made by the children of survivors 38 years ago at the first world gathering of Holocaust survivors: ‘We pledge to remember. We shall teach our children to preserve forever that uprooted Jewish spirit which could not be destroyed. We shall tell the world of the depths to which humanity can sink. We shall fight anti-Semitism, and all forms of racial hatred by our dedication to freedom throughout the world. We affirm our commitment to the State of Israel and to the furtherance of Jewish life in our homeland. We pledge ourselves to the oneness of the Jewish people.’”
The central focus of the Fasman students’ film, titled “Names, Not Numbers: A Movie in the Making ©,” was the stories of six Holocaust survivors who each participated in on-camera interviews, and the resulting impact upon the students after hearing the survivors describe their experiences and trials during this darkest period of history. The featured survivors included:
Mrs. Barbara Friedman (originally from Debrecen, Hungary);
Rabbi Chaim Shlomo Friedman (Romania), grandfather of FYHS student Yosef Friedman;
Mr. Gary Rubinstein (Wolomin, Poland);
Mrs. Feige Weinstock (Sárospatak, Hungary);
Mrs. Ibi Weiss (Munkacs, Ukraine);
and Mr. George Horovicz (Mezokovesd, Hungary), grandfather of FYHS student and course participant Gavriel Domsky.
In his opening remarks, Fasman Yeshiva High School Principal Rabbi Dovid Kupchik outlined the significance of “Names, Not Numbers” for students and viewers. “No Jew, or any human being for that matter, is a number. Every Jew is a raised head, an important individual, not a numerical value to be calculated, not a number to be counted. Every raised head, every person is a name. And every name lost in the Shoah was a portion of the Jewish people, with their own individuality, uniqueness and potential.”
This was Fasman Yeshiva’s first engagement with the “Names, Not Numbers” program, and the school plans to continue the program in future years. The film program represents another concrete step the school is taking to broaden its educational offerings and meet a wider range of interests among its students while adhering to its goal of providing a warm and nurturing Yeshiva experience combined with top-flight academics.
“This was only the beginning,” said Rabbi Kupchik afterward. “We’re just getting started.”