CINCINNATI - Over 200 middle school students from Cincinnati and Los Angeles gathered for a special videoconference on Wednesday, November 12, 2003 at 1pm, EST to discuss Hana's Suitcase. The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education of Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion has partnered with the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance at The Wiesenthal Center to bring the award-winning book Hana's Suitcase to schools across the U.S.A. Students from public, Jewish, and Catholic Middle Schools in the Cincinnati area discussed the book with the author, the heroes of the book, and a diverse group of school children via videoconference from Los Angeles. Hana's Suitcase was voted the Canadian 2003 Children's Book of the Year and received the Best Jewish Children's Literature award in 2002. It continues to receive awards and prizes, and has already been translated into 15 languages.
Hana's Suitcase is a true story that ties together children across the world. Fumiko Ishioka, a dedicated teacher, created a Children's Holocaust Education Center in Tokyo, Japan, after she visited Yad VaShem in Jerusalem. The Museum at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland loaned her some Holocaust artifacts. The largest was a battered brown suitcase bearing the words "Hana Brady, born May 16, 1931, 'Waisenkind' (orphan)." The Japanese children who gathered around this peculiar object asked their teacher "Who is Hana Brady?" Realizing that their innocent question was in fact the most important question, Fumiko began a worldwide search for clues to find the answers.
Hana's Suitcase uncovers the short life of Hana Brady, one young girl caught in the Holocaust. Fumiko is determined to fulfill her promise to her young students in Japan to find Hana's story. Crossing time, space and cultures-- it is about universal values and our need to care for one another, mutually and with passion.
Dr. Racelle Weiman, director of the Center at HUC- JIR in Clifton, met with the Museum of Tolerance staff in Los Angeles to generate a strategy to introduce American youth to the Canadian book. Weiman also met one of the main heroes of the book, Hana's only surviving relative, her brother, George, in Toronto. The result is the first video-conference of its kind: a wide-ranging group of youth who have read and studied the book will meet with Fumiko, the 'detective' of the book, Karen Levine, the book's author, George Brady, and a Theresienstadt survivor to engage in dialogue. The students will present art, poetry, music and prose, as well as prepare questions and comments for the adults.
Ella Moskovich of Blue Ash and Sharon Kreitzer, of Evendale, are the co-chairs of youth events for Hana's Suitcase. Kreitzer is amazed at its rocketing impact, remarking, "This dialogue across the continent captures the imagination of the teachers and the kids involved. It is thrilling to meet the motivated teachers who are so enamored with the book and its wonderful message. Its qualities and its ability to touch people, including me, are enormous!"