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Living in Isolation: Insights and Inspiration from Survivors of Genocide

Campaign shares messages of ‘experts in resilience’

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Saul Bruck, Auschwitz survivor

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As the weeks turn into months of quarantine, half of Canadians are experiencing mental health challenges including increased anxiety and worry, according to a recent Angus Reid poll. In the wake of these findings, a Montreal non-profit is sharing valuable coping resources and inspiration from people who have endured social isolation and stress to the nth degree: survivors of genocide.

The Foundation for Genocide Education was founded in 2014 by Heidi Berger, herself a child of Holocaust survivors. The non-profit aims to ensure that the subject of genocide is taught in North American high schools. Currently, it is collaborating with Quebec’s MEES (Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur) on a universal guide for teachers to better incorporate genocide education in their curricula. The project will be piloted in high schools province-wide once schools resume with the ultimate objective of implementing it across Canada.

In light of Covid-19, the foundation interviewed a number of Shoah, Rwandan and Cambodian genocide survivors and gleaned a wealth of practical tips from those who heroically endured the extreme pain and trauma of feeling alone and scared – among the myriad other life-altering consequences of these horrendous atrocities.

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“It’s a challenging time for all of us in so many ways, from physical isolation to financial concerns,” said Berger. “We thought Canadians could find sources of inspiration in the experiences of genocide survivors, who are experts in resilience.”

Saul Bruck

Montrealer Saul Bruck, a 99-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and the infamous Nazi death marches, survived the horrors by living one day at a time.

“I can only compare the situation to what I went through 70 years ago,” he said. “Compared to then, today’s situation is heaven on earth. My advice for anyone going through the health crisis today is that you should be grateful for what you do have; if you are hungry, you can eat, if you’re thirsty, you can drink… most importantly, tomorrow will be a better day. We have to have a positive outlook. This will not last forever, it will go over in time, and people will go back to a normal life.”

Sidney Zoltak | Photo: Yiddish Book Center

As a young teen, Sidney Zoltak hid in an underground bunker during the Holocaust for almost seven months where he did not see the light of day. The 89-year-old Montreal author of My Silent Pledge: A Journey of Struggle, Survival and Remembrance is grateful that today, my “bunker is not underground. I have daylight. I can walk around and can help myself to the contents of my fridge.”

His advice to those struggling with the restriction of quarantine: “We must be resilient and have confidence that our lives and the lives of our families will continue to experience joy and happiness, and everything else that lives in this world has to offer.”

Sidney Zoltak | Photo: Montreal Holocaust Museum

To date, the response to the campaign has been “incredible”, according to Berger. “Many Canadians have reached out to us sharing that they felt inspired and found strength in the words of the survivors.”

To read more of the survivors’ tips and stories of resilience, visit the Foundation for Genocide Education website.

-with files from the Foundation for Genocide Education

Aviva Engel is an award-winning editor with over 20 years of experience as a freelance journalist. In 2005, Aviva launched Exceptional Family, Canada’s Resource Magazine for Parents of Exceptional Children. Under Aviva’s leadership, 23 issues of the quarterly magazine were produced, winning three consecutive Hygeia Awards from the Canadian Public Relations Society for excellence in Canadian healthcare communications.

 Aviva is the director of communications at Hebrew Academy in Montreal and the lead editor and master storyteller at outsourcecopywriting.com

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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