My name is Aaron Lapidus and I am interning at The Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation for the summer through the Kohn Internship program at Jewish Vocational Services in San Francisco. Starting out in June, I had no idea what I was getting into. I have never held a nine-to-five, all-week kind of job, so this was my first foray into the real working world. I had heard of JPEF, but did not know exactly what they were all about. I was told that, as their name implies, they teach about the Jewish partisans: Jewish resistance fighters who fought back against the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. Going into this job, that is all I thought they did, but I have since learned that they are so much bigger than that.
Every week, I start my Mondays off by inputting new registrants into an online database. Entering this weekly data has shown me that JPEF does not just reach out to educators (thought that is a big part of it). We do outreach to everyone from museum staff and Holocaust memorial curators to students. Educators teaching everyone from preteens to college aged students are a part of the JPEF network, as well as people from all around the world. To think that in a little over ten years, a few people in an office in San Francisco could touch so many people – who are in turn teaching others to fight oppression and stand up for themselves – is quite remarkable.
A big goal of my summer internship here at JPEF has been to analyze the annual Educator Survey, which JPEF conducted a few months ago. Going over every question in detail got a little monotonous and turned into an endless stream of numbers and Excel tabs. However, one of the last questions asked if the educators had any suggestions for JPEF to be more helpful or if we could do anything to improve their teaching experience with regards to the partisans. Over half responded that everything was great, and they were totally satisfied with JPEF materials. Many were telling their friends about it, and most said they would be interested in having teacher workshops in their areas. They could see the impact the curriculum had on their students, who were only familiar with the stories of Jewish victimhood during the Holocaust until they learned about the partisans.
From my perspective, this was tangible evidence that our work here at JPEF really does make a difference. Through open-minded, engaging educators, students and young people are learning about this rarely-taught subject on the Holocaust, as well as understanding the importance of fighting back, not giving in, and resisting oppression. Across the globe, people’s lives are being touched every day when they learn about this group of people who dared to stand up to the Nazis. Knowing that, for a few months this summer, I could help touch people’s lives in some small way makes this a truly special experience.