It started with the Hebrew saying l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation.
From there, Rivka Jacobs’ essay spilled her thoughts on the Holocaust, what it means to her and why others should be aware of Nazi Germany’s systematic killing of Jews and other groups during World War II.
The essay set her apart from thousands of others, earning her one of 10 Holland & Knight Holocaust Remembrance Project scholarships.
“I was totally blown away, completely amazed,” said Jacobs of her honor.
Jacobs, a rising senior at West Forsyth High School, said it was the concept of l’dor v’dor that helped her secure the scholarship, worth between $2,500 and $10,000.
The generation of Holocaust survivors passed the stories onto the next generation, who passed it onto Jacobs’ generation.
“In Judaism, it is a way of life to tell stories of the past over and over again. They show us where we have been, where we are, and what we are aiming to accomplish,” wrote Jacobs in her essay.
“Through education, tolerance can be born and reveal itself in many ways.”
Jacobs will find out exactly how much her scholarship is worth June 30 during an awards ceremony in Miami, where she and the other nine recipients will spend the week.
The young essayists will tour the Jewish Museum of Florida, the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida and the Holocaust Memorial of Miami Beach. They also will get to meet personally with Holocaust survivors.
“I’m extremely excited [about] meeting the survivors. I’m not sure how many I will be meeting, but I’m sure it will be a very powerful experience,” she said.
This is the 17th annual Holocaust Remembrance Project offered by Holland & Knight law firm’s charitable foundation.
The firm began the project on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps, said Angela Ruth, foundation executive director.
“Some of the senior partners had been veterans of World War II and had actually liberated the camps and were particularly sensitive to that anniversary,” she said.
“It is our way to provide some justice to the victims of the Holocaust by never letting people forget what happened and by making sure young people are aware of things that happened in the Holocaust.”
Ruth said a group of three educators go through every essay and narrow it to the top 100 entries, which are then read by staff members.
“They’re really looking for good research and good creativity and passion — something with a wow factor,” Ruth said.
Jacobs first heard about the contest as an extra credit assignment for her U.S. history class.
Several students wrote an essay. While she said everyone had the same shot at winning, her experience studying Judaism and its history gave her an edge.
“A big part of Judaism is always educating yourself, always studying the Torah, studying anything from the past,” she said. “I’ve been kind of growing up studying about the Holocaust. So when this essay came around, everything I felt and learned throughout the years … just came out on the page.
“It all fell into place.”
Jacobs is a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Society of High School Scholars, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society.
The scholarship will help her toward her goal of earning a degree in chemical engineering.
“I am extremely grateful for everything the foundation has done,” she said. “It has helped me in more ways than they could have ever imagined.”