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Volunteer Voice

Volunteer Voice Newsletter :

Writing Assignment #1

Three Topics/Preliminary Ideas for Future Articles:

*  The value of oral/recorded histories and/or how digital history plays into preserving Holocaust memories and increasing the accessibility of the public to their recorded accounts. (focus on oral archives here at USHMM and its extensive website and links)

*  Connections to other institutions? Highlight other institutions dedicated to Holocaust studies… perhaps the Shoah Foundation, the new Jewish museum in Philly, or the variety of other Holocaust museums in the US (not to diminish USHMM’s role but to celebrate other institutions and the movement all are apart of to remember) Just a thought…

Has the newsletter focused articles on the other programs and projects going on? If not, or even so, it would be interesting to keep all staff (volunteers, interns, staff) informed of what is in the works. Maybe an article highlighting the volunteer-intern interviews, or one highlighting Sarah’s ISP project, book club, research, etc…

Reflection #1:

As a middle school student I remember sitting by the concourse elevators with my school group, waiting to be taken to the permanent exhibit. That day was my first time visiting USHMM but my love of history and recently developed interest in Holocaust/genocide studies blossomed here that day. I remember sitting and listening to a person, who I know now was a member of Visitor Services, tell me what I was going to see and how to act while I was here. The experience I had that day was so moving for me as a young student, struck with a deep conviction to remember the horrors of the Holocaust.

I also remember deciding that day that I was going to learn what I had to do to work here. I told my parents about my decision, which they supported, but I honestly believe that they thought it was subject to change over the years. I know that not many people can decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives that early in life, but I can honestly say that from that day forward, it was my goal to work here. (Although I did not know in what capacity)

You can imagine how surreal it is to find myself standing in front of a group of middle school students, in that very room, possibly being an image or representation of what one of the students would want to do in the future. Who knows?

One day, as I felt discouraged by a group of school students’ lack of attention and respect towards the museum and content, I was approached by a young girl who completely reoriented my focus. She approached me, tears in her eyes, and told me that she did not know what to do because she felt so badly. I talked with her for a while and tried to assure her that, by her coming here, she was doing something good. As long as people, no matter the age, continue to come and feel, react and remember, there will be a public, a future for the museum, and, I hope, several aspiring students who will want to work here.

Another day, a group of interns and I were sitting in the Green room for lunch. A lady came in, who we found out was a Holocaust survivor, and sat at the table with us. She told us that her friend came by to drop of lunch for her but lamented that she really was not that hungry. She stated, “Well, I guess my friend did not want me to starve (long pause) … again.” All of us were quiet and our previous discussions seemed less important now. This Holocaust survivor then proceeded to offer half of her sandwich to us. “Please, one of you, help me eat this.” Wow- how powerful and selfless is that? That moment put things into perspective immediately and it is a moment that I will not be able to forget.

I am so thankful for this internship and for a dream coming to fruition. I am humbled daily by the nature of this institution and by its staff and survivors. I am learning more from this internship than any visitor could be learning from me…