From Generation to Generation

Non-Jewish Teenager Embarks
On Holocaust Education

by Jennifer Morrison


I am Jennifer Anne Morrison, a Grade 11 student in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, baptized Roman Catholic, belonging to no organized religion.

I am also a 4-H member and write a speech every year for 4-H Public Speaking.

One Sunday afternoon, many months ago, I was watching a movie on television, "Apt Pupil," while my mom was puttering around the house. I couldn't believe how mean this young guy was to the elderly man in the movie. Several times I said to mom "I can't believe this young guy mom, you should see how he is treating this old man."

Finally, mom came and sat down to watch the movie with me. After a few minutes mom said, "oh Jennifer, I admire your empathy for the elderly, but don't waste your sympathy on this old man." When I asked her why, she said "Because he is a Nazi." I looked at her and asked, "What is a Nazi." She stared at me in horror and asked me what the hell I was learning in school if I didn't know what a Nazi is. So she told me I was severely in need of a history lesson.

She went out and rented "Schindler's List" and "The Last Days." We watched them together.

About a week later, I told mom that I wanted to do my 4-H speech on the Holocaust because if I didn't know what a Nazi and the Holocaust was then a lot of other people don't either.

So mom got hold of a book entitled I HAVE LIVED A THOUSAND YEARS and she contacted a friend of hers who gave her the name and phone number of a survivor living in Nova Scotia, Mr. Philip Riteman.

Philip sent us two video tapes entitled "The Auchwitz Connection" and "Voices of Survival."

Time was passing and I hadn't met Philip yet. We phoned him and he told us he would be in Cape Breton the week of my competition. I met with him four days before my first competition which was to take place on a Saturday morning. Bear in mind, I had exams during this same week. It was awful. But once I met Philip, writing the speech was a piece of cake. He, and the fact that he survived such horrors, made the reason for writing my speech even more important.

I never did get to study for my history exam, and before studying for my french exam I finished writing the speech and my mom was up until one o'clock in the morning putting it on cue cards for me.

I had two afternoons to prepare for this public speaking competition. But I was driven by Philip and the fact that his story had to be told. My speech is entitled "Where There's Life, There's Hope".

I competed at County level and took first place as senior speaker as well as top overall public speaker for Cape Breton County. A week later, I competed regionally taking first again in the senior category which qualified me to speak at Provincial level. I took first again Provincially and spoke at 4-H Night in Nova Scotia. What an overwhelming feeling when I finished speaking and everyone stood while clapping.

Before my Provincial competition, I had the honor of speaking at the Temple Sons of Israel Synagogue in Sydney for the Yom Hashoah service. I was a guest speaker along with a survivor who lives in New Brunswick, Mr. Israel Unger.

Since the Provincial competition, I spoke at two United Churches and a couple of schools.

I was notified on May 24, 2000 that I was selected by the Atlantic Jewish Council to receive the "Jerusalem Award." This Award, direct from the Holy City, is given yearly by the Council to a person in the Maritimes who best exemplifies a concern for the human condition both past and present, and also expresses by deed, by word or in print, the concept of social justice for all mankind.

I went to Halifax June 10th to receive the Jerusalem Award and was treated with such kindness and respect. I will forever remember it.

On July 31 I went to Camp Kadimah where I spoke and had an absolutely wonderful time with the "Kadimah Kids." They treated me like one of their own and hopefully I have made friends for life.

I have had experiences this spring like few people my age have been lucky enough to have. I have met some wonderful people with whom I hope I remain friends for many years to come.

Published with permission of Fran Morrison, mother of Jennifer Morrison.

© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
All rights reserved.