HomeJULY 2024Multigenerational Mingling

Multigenerational Mingling

Students and survivors meet over lunch and art

A beautiful June Sunday, a painting project, a kosher lunch, and a chance to tell stories added up to a fun and meaningful day that brought generations together. Student To Student (a program of the Rose Project of Jewish Federation of Orange County), Jewish Family Services, and Laguna Playhouse collaborated for a teen and Holocaust survivor art project to bond, learn from each other, and enjoy art therapy.
    Called Art and Culture Café Europa, the teens and the survivors painted together with instruction from Emily Eason, teaching artist at the Laguna Playhouse, which brings the program to the community though funding by the Orange County Health Care Agency. Eason described the painting process as “a healthy way to cope.” Café Europa honors survivors as well as people lost in the Holocaust.
    The Holocaust survivors shared a few stories with students during the event. The stories were recorded between 2022 and 2023 as part of a special project provided by the Jewish Federations of North America. The Jewish Family Service helped to compile some of the stories into books.
    “The Student To Student program had a very successful year at a time of incredible challenges for the Jewish community, and we are currently looking to build our teen ambassador cohort for next year,” explained Robin Steinmetz, Student to Student Coordinator. “The program enables the teens to connect with Judaism and teach it to other people.”
    During the 2023-2024 school year, Student to Student programs were presented to 4,000 students in 20 schools in Orange County.
    The Jewish Federation of Orange County website related that the impact of a Student to Student (STS) presentation exceeds the classroom and the school day. “After engaging with STS Teen Ambassadors, high school students better understand Jews and Judaism, have increased awareness of religious and cultural differences and commonalities, and gain a greater desire to interrupt antisemitic comments and stereotypes when they hear them inside and outside a school setting,” the site said.
    Statistically, 83 percent of teachers strongly agree that Student to Student presentations break down stereotypes and effectively engage their students, 94 percent of teachers report that students continue to discuss what they learned from Student to Student presentations in their classrooms afterward, 84 percent of students report that they have shared what they learned or have taken another step to learn more about Judaism, 27 percent say that they have interrupted an antisemitic comment, and 78 percent of teachers believe that Student to Student presentations helped to counter antisemitism in their schools. The program is now in 25 cities.
    “We’re planting the seeds of empathy to combat anti-Semitism,” Steinmetz summarized.

Ilene Schneider is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.



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