Student Explores Ancestral History

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Student Explores Ancestral History

Gabriela Ruiz and Brynn Friesen

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“When I was younger, I was always told to wait until I was older to hear all of the stories. Now that I’m older, the stories are getting harder to tell.”

Junior Jonah Kahn drew inspiration from his own experiences and his knowledge of the history of Judaism for an essay he submitted to his synagogue. 

“I wrote about how sometimes I hear people make jokes at school [and] why I think being Jewish is important and how that affects my life,” Kahn said. 

Kahn’s essay clearly left a notable impression on the application reviewers. 

“They chose the two best essays,” he said. “Mine was one of them.”

As a reward, Kahn joined an exclusive group of students selected to go to Washington, D.C. There, he toured the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

“They have both a temporary and permanent exhibit,” Kahn said. “The temporary exhibit was really cool. We got really lucky because it was about what America did during the Holocaust. As an American, I want to know what was happening during that time and what our country did to stop what was going on.”

According to Kahn, his visit to the renowned museum was a harrowing experience filled with emotion.

“It was very sad,” Kahn said. “Some of the pictures or artifacts were disturbing because they [cause you] to think about what others had to go through. It made me take a lot of things not for granted.”

As poignant as Kahn recalls the museum being overall, he found one display particularly impactful and eye-opening.

“They had an entire room probably three or four stories [tall,]” he said. “If you looked up, there were pictures from a Jewish village, and it was all these people that had lived together that then got torn apart because of the Holocaust.”

Kahn acknowledges he has faced some challenges throughout his life growing up in a predominantly Christian community.

“Sometimes I wish I was surrounded more by people who are like me who understand the religion more,” he said. “You get school off for Christmas and all of those really important [Christian] holidays, [while] I have to miss school [for Jewish holidays.]”

Overall, Kahn thinks it is important for today’s generation to hold onto the stories of the past, especially as the Holocaust becomes a more distant memory. 

“Survivors aren’t going to be alive much longer,” Kahn said. “We need to be able to tell the story of our ancestors.”