By Miranda Bannister
It was the day before her thirteenth birthday when Eliane Goldstein published the first episode of her podcast The Effect On Us. Now, six months and 21 episodes later, what began as a bat mitzvah project has become a quest to document and share the story of Holocaust survivors around the world. Already Eliane has interviewed nearly two dozen survivors and connected with people on four different continents.
How It All Began
It was Rabbi Boris Dolin of Congregation Dorshei Emet who initially suggested to Eliane and her mother that she create a podcast for her bat mitzvah project. Eliane, whose family survived the Holocaust on both her mother’s and father’s sides, decided that the name of the podcast should emphasize the impact of the Holocaust on following generations, as well as survivors.
She and her mother considered many different iterations. She says, “We were brainstorming: The Effect On Me, The Effect On You … I was like, The Effect On Us! Then my mom didn’t like it so much. We [kept] brainstorming other names, and I kept coming back to ‘Us.'”
Describing one personal inspiration for the name, Eliane explains, “[My father] got the effect of [the Holocaust] from his grandparents. He’ll never throw out food, always eats in order of expiration dates … Toilet paper!— he always has to buy toilet paper to keep stocked, which he’s been doing my entire life… He’ll always say it’s because my grandparents were in the Holocaust, but I never knew what that meant at the time. So, I thought it would be a good idea to see how the Holocaust has had an effect on different people.”
Sharing Important Stories
At the start of the project, Eliane’s mother Liat Lev-Ary (Goldstein) began putting her in touch with survivors that she knew through her job as a notary managing wills and estates. In Quebec, Canada, the majority of notaries are lawyers, as is the case with Ms. Lev-Ary (Goldstein). Later, after her mother posted a description of Eliane’s project on a website for survivors and their families, Eliane began hearing from more and more people who wanted to share their stories or wanted to introduce Eliane to a parent who had survived the Holocaust. Before she knew it, Eliane was doing an interview per week and devoting her weekends to preparing the introductions and outros.
What Eliane most enjoys is being able to share the stories of survivors.
She says, “My favorite thing about running the podcast is to be able to hear [their] stories and then take little bits of inspiration. I tell it to people, and I always see either they have a smile on their face or they’re almost crying. I know that that’s when the person who told it to me did a great job, and I did a good job passing it along, and other people will learn.”
One such story is that of Johnny Jablon, a survivor Eliane interviewed earlier this year. Jablon was thirteen years old at the start of the war.
In his conversation with Eliane he shares, “When I was your age, exactly thirteen years old, I witnessed the biggest crime, the biggest murder, in the history of the World, which is the Holocaust.”
By 16 years old, he was living in the Warsaw Ghetto with his family.
Eliane recalls from the interview, “He snuck out one day and he stole a loaf of bread from a bakery. He came back, and he told his mom that he found it on the streets. And then around 70 years later he went on the March of the Living, and they passed by the bakery. He went in there, and he tried to pay for the bread, and the cashier wouldn’t take it. But he insisted, and he ended up paying for the bread that he stole 70 years ago.”
In the process of documenting the effect on survivors and their descendants, Eliane has also had a positive impact on the survivors she has interviewed, who are grateful to have their stories shared and recorded for posterity.
She says, “I love being able to hear [the survivors’] responses after they listen to it.”
Connecting Her Community
Eliane has forged a number of relationships in her community through running the podcast.
She says, “Some of [the survivors] actually live really close to me, so it’s easier for me to be able to see them. Like Jordana Hapner – she was my first interview. It was her birthday last week, and we went to go give her flowers and say happy birthday.”
For Rosh Hashanah, Eliane and her mother ended up giving out five honey cakes to different survivors she had interviewed. Eliane also invited all of the survivors that she interviewed for the podcast to her bat mitzvah, and many of them or their family members were present at the celebration.
In the process of documenting different accounts of the Holocaust, Eliane has also connected with survivors in her own family. Eliane flew to France to meet and interview Rachel Krolik, a Holocaust survivor and the widow of one of Eliane’s relatives who also survived the Holocaust by hiding in France as a child. Krolik had refused to discuss her experience up until this point but shared her story for the first time ever on Eliane’s podcast.
A Learning Experience
The experience of conducting the interviews has also taught Eliane many new skills.
She says, “I got scared to the point where I was not talking at all during my first interview, and I was whispering. I was so scared that I would say the wrong thing– that it would trigger someone. And then I realized they don’t care, because they want to be interviewed by me, so they’re open.”
Running the podcast has even changed her mind about what she wants to do when she grows up. Eliane says, “I used to want to be a lawyer, but I think now I want to be a journalist.”
In the meantime, Eliane’s favorite subjects in school are English and History. Outside of school, she enjoys reading about war history.
Eliane is also gaining recognition for the work she is doing. Her local newspaper, The Montreal Gazette, recently wrote a profile on Eliane, and the school board in Montreal also honored her as Student of the Month in June 2021.
Eliane plans for the second season to share an even broader range of stories, including indigenous and LGBTQ+ stories. Like the first season, it will focus on documenting and sharing the effect that certain experiences have had on Eliane’s interview subjects and their communities. Eliane will also continue adding interviews with Holocaust survivors to the first season whenever she meets a survivor who wants to share their story with future generations.