Second Generation Holocaust Survivor Joins Sliding Dors to Share Her Story

Jewish community member Maya Shmoel is a participant of the Indianapolis chapter of Sliding Dors, a new Partnership2Gether program for second-generation Holocaust survivors to gather and reflect on their families’ stories. 
Shmoel’s family has diverse origins, including Morocco, Uzbekistan and Romania. Her father grew up in Vatra Dornei, Romania. At 14, on Aug. 8th, 1949, he immigrated to Israel. He joined the Israeli Navy, and eventually went on to open a wood-working shop in Jerusalem. 
It was not until Shmoel was in her 20s that she found out that her father was a Holocaust survivor. Her family was attending a Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, and survivors were asked to hold candles. Much to her surprise, she noticed that her father took a candle for himself. And when the children of Holocaust survivors were asked to take candles, her father instructed her to do so. She was puzzled, as she was never previously told that her father was a survivor. 
In the years that followed, Shmoel was hesitant to ask her dad too many questions. She knew it must be difficult for him to recount his memories. Today, she regrets not asking more questions about his life when she had the chance. Still, she was able to fill in the picture of his life by doing research and asking questions of her dad’s extended family.  
Her dad and his family were given three hours to pack their bags and board a cattle train headed to the Shargorod ghetto. Life was difficult and food was hard to come by. It was thanks to the kindness of various strangers that Maya’s dad’s family was spared from the fate that the rest of the ghetto faced. A doctor agreed to lie and provide a sign for their apartment door that read: “This family has Typhus.” The Nazi soldiers, afraid to catch the disease, left the family alone while gathering everyone else to be sent to gas chambers. 
As the number of living Holocaust survivors dwindles, it becomes even more important that second-generation survivors know how to tell their families’ stories. One purpose of the Sliding Dors program is for second-generation survivors to learn how to tell those stories. Participants can acquire specialized training through Amber Maze, the Holocaust Educator and Human Rights Associate at the Jewish Relations Council of Indianapolis, and can join the Holocaust Speakers Bureau, a network of volunteers who speak to school groups and organizations about their personal stories. 
Shmoel is a retired Hebrew language teacher. As an educator, her passion lies in teaching and telling stories. 
“I thought to myself, I’m an educator,” she said. “I’m involved with the community. Why don’t I tell my own story?” 
Maya has spoken publicly about her family’s story on multiple occasions. She was especially touched when she spoke at a juvenile detention center, where she reflected with the kids there about how her father was able to start a new life after surviving the Holocaust. 
“The sessions are emotional,” Sliding Dors leader Michele Boukai said about the monthly meetings. “You get to know each other in a very deep way that is usually hard to do virtually.”
Indianapolis is one of 14 participating American communities, joined by chapters in Budapest and in the Western Galilee. Of the 115 participants internationally, 33 of them are involved through the Indy chapter. Monthly meetings alternate between large international sessions and smaller chapter sessions. 
Shmoel enjoys the diverse speakers, experiences and perspectives she is exposed to during the international sessions. 
“To participate on an international level through our Partnership, to connect with second generation survivors in Budapest, in Israel, and in other cities in the Midwest, it’s incredible,” Shmoel said. “You discover that you’re really not alone.”
Shmoel loves listening to other families’ stories in the Sliding Dors sessions. She is moved by the similarities in each of the participants’ stories. Even a seemingly minor similarity, like being raised to finish every single bite of food left on a plate, is moving.  
“To hear other stories and see what connects us, that we’re all interwoven with our stories, to me that’s very powerful,” she said. “Very powerful.”
If you are a second or third generation Holocaust survivor and would like to join the Indianapolis chapter of Sliding Dors, contact Michele Boukai at


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