The Holocaust for many is a lesson taught from history books in high school or the set up of a film — people are aware of it, but it may not have a deep, intimate impact on their lives.
But for survivors and their kin, including Esther Schlanger, co-director of the Chabad Jewish Community Center, it's impossible to not see how this tragic event is still relevant today.
Especially since Sunday marked one year since the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people.
"People forget. As time goes on, the memories fade, especially with what we see," Schlanger said. Her grandfather left Europe during the 1930s and was the sole survivor of his family. Her husband's, Rabbi Shmuel Schlanger, grandparents were also survivors — his grandfather was the sole survivor in his village. "There's a rise in intolerance and anti-Semitism. We can’t be passive."
To make sure the conversation keeps going, the Chabad Jewish Community Center and Cal State Bakersfield partnered together to bring Holocaust survivor Jacob Eisenbach to campus Nov. 10 at the Doré Theater. The talk will begin at 4 p.m.
Tickets cost $18, $15 for CSUB faculty and staff and are free for CSUB students. Tickets can be purchased at www.jacobeisenbach.eventbrite.com
After World War II, Eisenbach emigrated to the United States with his family in 1950. He practiced dentistry for 60 years until he retired at the age of 92. He is the lone survivor of his family.
At 96, it is Eisenbach's mission to eliminate the source of all genocides from the human race.
An estimated 500,000 Holocaust survivors were still alive in 2014, according to the event's page. Many experts believe that number is down to 100,000.
Because many survivor's stories are dying with them, Schlanger said it's important to share first-hand experiences with people today because of the weight and impact they carry.
"Many students have never encountered a survivor. It’s a distant story," she said, "but when you bring it to them, it makes it real."
Liora Gubkin, director of IREPP and associate dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, can concur. She has spent more than two decades focused on the Holocaust, and when teaching goes beyond a textbook, students really understand the implications it has to their lives today.
"Sometimes students really connect on a political level. They see, 'Oh this is what happens when we don’t pay attention to sustaining our democratic institutions ... This is what happens when we start by making jokes and discriminate and write prejudices into law,'" Gubkin explained.
To bring students closer to those first-hand experiences, she and another professor, Anne Duran, are hoping to develop the course Resisting Indifference: The Psychology of the Holocaust this summer so students can spend around two-to-three weeks in central and eastern Europe and tour concentration camps and ghetto sites.
"I’ve been teaching it online and twice I had students in Germany, either during or before the course, and they went to Dachau, and they came back and were like, 'I knew, but I didn’t know,'" Gubkin explained, referring to the horrors they saw.
But before then, both Gubkin and Schlanger hope students and community members who attend Eisenbach's talk can see what unchecked hatred can lead to, and hopefully prevent it from happening again.
"My personal goal is a student, who is sitting there, will be in a conversation with someone in the future that might mention something anti-Semitic, and they’ll stop it. They'll say 'It’s not OK to make that comment,'" Schlanger said.
Earlier this year, survivor Eva Schloss visited Bakersfield's Fox Theater and spoke on her experience in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and the rise in anti-Semitism across the country in recent years.