Holocaust Museum partners with DISD for new program teaching history, immigration, nondiscrimination



DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

The Dallas Holocaust Museum has partnered with Dallas Independent School District to present a program for all fifth graders called The City-Wide Read and Performance.

This fall, students are reading The Children of Willesden Lane, by Mona Golabek, which tells the story of Golabek’s mother’s escape from Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport after Germany annexed Austria. The family was given one ticket on the train that evacuated children to England. They chose her mother, Lisa Jura, to escape, because she was a 14-year-old musical prodigy who, they reasoned, would have the best chance of survival on her own.

Jura made it to the Willesden Lane orphanage in London, where she became a concert pianist. Later, she taught her daughter the piano and instilled in her the story of her survival.

These days, Golabek tells the story of her mother’s Holocaust experience on stage at the piano. While telling the story, she shares some of her mother’s favorite classical music such as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

Golabek talks about her mother’s fear of being a stranger and her ultimate perseverance and triumph. She explores what it feels like to be an immigrant. Jura’s story will expose the more than 12,500 DISD fifth graders to this period of history through the eyes of a young girl.

For the City-Wide Read and Performance, Golabek made sure each DISD student was given a copy of the book at no charge. Copies were made available in Spanish and audiobooks were available for students who required them.

On Nov. 14-16, Golabek will be in Dallas for six performances at Fair Park Music Hall and all 12,500 students will attend. To ensure each fifth grader could participate, the Holocaust Museum raised money to cover the wholesale cost of the books and the cost of busing the students to the Music Hall. Golabek is donating her time. Even the Music Hall slashed its fees to help insure the program would happen.

Dallas Holocaust Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins said teachers were provided professional development on teaching Holocaust history. Additional curricula and materials were developed that included art and music teachers. Classes are discussing a wide variety of topics from immigration to discrimination and tolerance, constant themes of Holocaust Museum exhibits.

“DISD was thrilled to do this,” Higgins said. “It’s very relevant to their students.”

She added that it is important for students to learn history to keep from repeating it. “We’ve made these mistakes before,” she said.

“Learn from it.”

Higgins explained that Great Britain was the only government to change its immigration quotas before World War II to allow in more Jews from Nazi-occupied countries. To honor the Kindertransport, Great Britain is planning a second one to help children evacuated from war-torn Syria.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2016.