Bridging the generations
While focusing on the youth it struck me how fortunate we are here at the Centre that we are also able to harness the wisdom and experience of the older generation and build it into our youth programming.
Last month the government released the latest figures for life expectancy in the UK, showing that it continues to increase, with men now living to an average of 78 years and women 82 years. There are more old people in our society than ever before and yet the gap between the generations is probably wider than it has ever been. The leaps and bounds in technology over the last thirty years have left many older people feeling out of touch, and no longer useful. As a society we are in danger of forgetting the enormous wealth of knowledge and experience that their lives can offer us.
For a year now, Jewish Care has been running a wonderful campaign called Pearls of Wisdom, which encourages young people to connect with their elders by asking them for their pearls of wisdom, highlighting the value of their priceless life experiences.
Here at Ivy House, we have worked with Holocaust survivors for many years, taking speakers in to schools and colleges around the country, to tell their astonishing stories of courage, loss and survival. Despite their advancing years, the feedback we get shows how meeting the survivors and hearing personal testimony has a great impact on young people, particularly those who have encountered suppression and prejudice in their lives. Now, one of our most important projects is the recording of survivor testimony, to ensure that these powerful stories will continue to be told when they can no longer be delivered in person.
In the last four weeks, as an integral part of one of our courses, Churchill’s German Army, we have been privileged to welcome a number of war veterans with an average age of 90. They came to the UK as refugee children from Germany and Austria, were classified as enemy aliens, only later to join the British army to fight against Hitler. Had they been caught as German or Austrian Jews they would not have survived. Their modesty, humour and fascinating memories of that turbulent period were inspiring - left the audience speechless – and should be heard again and again. We can all learn a great deal, including respect, for these amazing people.
And this Mitzvah Day, the LJCC hosted 16 young people who volunteered their time to make sandwiches, bake scones and cakes and serve it all to a group of our Holocaust survivors - and chat to them while they were enjoying the tea. There was an amazing buzz in the room which proved to me once again the importance and value of bringing the generations together through shared experiences and education. The most important thing is that we don’t have to wait till Mitzvah Day to make events such as these happen.