More Life, More Love, More Pride: European Teens Meet Holocaust Survivors

Before she joined the Intergeneration program in Budapest, 80-year-old Mariann rarely told people she had survived the Holocaust—or even that she was Jewish.

“For 70 years, we were afraid to tell our stories. But because of this program, I got the courage to tell my friends and neighbors I am Jewish,” she says. “I’m working to show younger Hungarian Jews that they should be fearless, that they, too, can be brave.”

An initiative jointly operated by Federation partners the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and The Jewish Agency for Israel, Intergeneration takes groups of Hungarian Holocaust survivors and young adults to Israel for Birthright-style trips, following several months of discussion groups and educational seminars.

Though the trip to Israel is a life-changing Jewish experience for participants young and old, much of the program’s power stems from pre-trip meetings, where two very different generations come together, listen deeply and share experiences.

Fanni, 20, participated in Intergeneration with her grandmother. She says the experience made her feel able to “give the elderly back their stories.”

“I felt more Jewish. I said to myself, ‘This is my culture.’ And when I went to Israel, I saw that face-to-face. It’s amazing to see how generations can work together,” she says.

About 30 people participate in the program each year. Though some of the younger participants have been to Israel before, it’s always the first trip for the Holocaust survivors.

Eszter, 25, believes that’s a meaningful milestone for emerging young Hungarian Jews to witness.

“My father is always telling me how sorry he is I couldn’t meet my grandparents and hear their stories,” she says. “But through this program, I can make more connections. I learn more stories. I see love.”