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Beth-El School Happenings


By Ramona L. Brand, Director of Youth Learning

Telling Their Story

On April 10th I had the privilege of bringing Holocaust Education to a 5th Grade Class at Bon Air Elementary School.


The students were researching eras in history for classroom projects, and several were covering aspects of the Holocaust.

The teacher felt the subject matter was important enough for the entire class to benefit from having a speaker to help the children understand the enormity of the subject and invited me to speak.

Clearly one cannot transmit the enormity of this subject in one speaker engagement, especially for elementary students. However, starting with a single story, a single experience helped to humanize and personalize an immensely difficult subject.

Last summer I attended a Seminar at Yad Vashem specifically to designed to support educators in teaching the Holocaust to young students in ways that are accessible emotionally, and educationally.

It provided tools and training to help educators develop the skills needed to create programs and content for Shoah studies that can be used in a variety of settings and time constraints and to deliver those programs in the most compelling way possible.


Ramona Brand, Director of Youth Learning, speaks to students at Bon Air Elementary School during a Holocaust Education presentation on April 10th.

Thanks to that great training, I expanded a family survival history into a full interactive presentation. In keeping with Yad Vashem’s pedagogy, I delved deeply into the account of my Aunt Leila’s and her family’s experience at the hands of the Nazi’s during Kristallnacht.

Their story, like many, was a combination of terror, loss, bravery, luck, survival, and resilience. Using family photos (both in Germany and the U.S.), primary documents, family artifacts and my aunt’s own words, I was able to introduce the class to their experience as a small reflection of the larger picture. That my aunt was their age during this experience made a deep impression on them.

Attentive Students

The students, most of whom knew very little about this time, were an attentive group who asked thoughtful and deep questions.

They grappled with large issues of identity (the family had generations of roots in Germany), systematic deprivation and loss of rights, State sponsored terror, loss of home and freedom, and becoming refugees.

They were astounded at the timeline of barely a month between the date of Kristallnacht and their arrival in the United States to start over.

At the conclusion of my time with the class, one young girl approached me and thanked me for sharing my aunt’s story and gave me a hug.

Although my aunt is no longer alive, I am now able to be her witness.

 May Religious School Calendar:

Sundays: May 7 & 21

Wednesdays: May 3, 10, 17

May Tot Shabbat:

For families with children age Birth -5 / Free and open to the entire community

Time 10 a.m. Location: Meet on the back lawn of the VMFA (Grove Ave. side). Bring a blanket or chairs and dress for the weather.  Rain Location: Belmont Library / 3100 Ellwood Ave. A Shabbat service geared for young children, filled with music, stories, movement and more. Designed for wiggles.

Beth-El Religious School employs the best practices in Jewish Education! to raise the curiosity and literacy of our students, teachers, and families!

Contact Ramona L. Brand,  at (804) 355-3564 ext. 111 or r.brand@bethelrichmond.org  to learn more about our vibrant Jewish education and our remarkable congregation or visit http://www.bethelrichmond.org/education/brown-religious-school/  to find a registration form.

Beth-El 7th Grade Students participate in the Partnership Together 75 Anniversary for Israel by making mosaics art works. These mosaics are going to our partner region, Hadera to be embedded in benches.



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