The story that held JFS spellbound
HUNDREDS OF JFS pupils rolled into the hall on a tidal wave of chatter. But within minutes they were sitting in rapt silence, eyes fixed on the woman at the piano before them.
They were attending one of the three back-to-performances at the school last Friday morning of The Pia
nist of Willesden Green, Mona Golabek’s dramatisation of her mother Lisa Jura’s flight to London from Nazi-occupied Vienna on the Kindertransport.
The American pianist has performed her one-woman show to 250,000 schoolchildren in the USA. But JFS was the first British school to see it.
Among the audience was a small group of sixth-formers from three local schools, whose presence reflects a more concerted effort at outreach by JFS. The previous week around a hundred year-10 students from nine Brent schools attended an all-day seminar at JFS for Holocaust Memorial Day.
Before the performance, the visitors from other schools were given an hour-long class on the background to the Kindertransport from JFS history teachers Susie Fox and Jennie Jebreel.
It covered not only the story of the young Jewish refugees brought to Britain but how the memory of Kindertransport has subsequently inspired others to act — such as Jewish social activist Nick Schlagman, whose campaign raised £200,000 last year for Syr- ian child refugees. “Individual actions do make a big difference,” Mrs Fox said.
As every educator knows, one personal story, powerfully told, can make more impact than a textbook full of facts. And Mona Golabek’s tale, which uses some of the classical pieces her mother loved to play as an emotional backdrop, left its mark on JFS’s guests.
Hijab-wearing Ayesha said, “It really touched the heart. The message conveyed is so relevant in society with what’s going on in the Middle East.”
“I have no words,” said Gui, “I’m speechless.” Jack Todd, a history teacher from Crest Academy in Neasden, said, “it speaks in an accessible and powerful way. It should be seen as widely as possible.”