Seniors in the Names, Not Numbers program interviewed Holocaust survivors this week. It was both an emotional and educational experience for our students to engage with Holocaust survivors, document their stories, and learn life-long lessons from them - we should never forget. Now that the filming is complete, our students will begin editing these films, with the guidance of Rabbi Josh Strulowitz, and welcome the survivors back into the Central building for a feature film presentation at the end of the year.
One of the women who was interviewed for Names, Not Numbers was Rebbetzin Chaya (Walkin ‘51) Small. Rebbetzin Small was in the first graduating class of Central (Class of 1951)! Students had the chance to hear from her and some of her friends from that graduating class, and ask them questions about their time and memories at Central. Rebbetzin Chaya Small was accompanied by her fellow Central graduates Rebbetzin Yaspa (Goldberg ‘51) Werner and Mrs. Sylvia (Klaperman ‘51) Tuchman. We were also privileged to have had Rebbbetzin Small’s sister, Rebbetzin Rochelle Kelemar, who also shared her fondest memories of Central. These women were the pioneers, in 1947, to come to Central, a brand-new school in a shul basement in Brooklyn, to join the Yeshiva University family, and build a long-lasting legacy. They shared with us how Central got its name, about their favorite teachers and classes, and recounted funny stories with us about those first few years.
One incredibly inspiring story shared was from November 29, 1948, when the twelve Central students sat together listening to the radio, as the UN counted the votes, in anticipation of the State of Israel being established. Once the votes were in, the girls ran outside, onto Ocean Parkway, and danced their hearts out, in celebration of the new State of Israel. As they danced, Ocean Parkway filled with other like-minded Jews, and the celebration and happiness could be felt for hours. Hannah Pianko, a Senior from Woodmere who interviewed Rebbetzin Small for Names, Not Numbers, said that “Rebbetzin Small’s emunah and love of Hashem after going through everything she went through was so inspiring. She’s never negative, never dwells on the hardships she faced. She always looks for the positive in life.” Their stories, memories, and friendship will leave us inspired forever.
Thank you to our illustrious guests and to Mrs. Tova Rosenberg for creating and running the Names, Not Numbers program and for organizing the best reunion Central has ever had.