As 14-year-old Lisa Jura said goodbye to her mother at a Vienna train station in 1938, Jura’s mother spoke words that would inspire her for a lifetime: “Hold on to your music. It will be your best friend.”
Jura didn’t imagine that these words — and how her life came to embody them — would inspire subsequent generations of teenagers, even 70 years later.
An aspiring pianist, Jura traveled from Vienna to London as part of the Kindertransport, an effort to save children from Nazi peril that ultimately rescued nearly 10,000. Jura, like most Kindertransport children, never saw her parents again. But she nurtured her dream, continuing to study music while living throughout World War II in a London orphanage. She ultimately earned a scholarship to the prestigious London Royal Academy of Music.
Jura’s story was chronicled in a book by her daughter, Mona Golabek, who herself became a Grammy-winning pianist. Now, an array of educational materials are being developed to bring the story to teens nationwide.
The book, “The Children of Willesden Lane” (Warner Books, 2002) will now have a teacher’s guide, geared for middle and high school. The Santa Monica-based Milken Family Foundation commissioned the teacher’s guide, after being impressed with the book’s themes of resilience, hope and triumph over tragedy. The Milken Foundation also funded a companion CD featuring Golabek reading excerpts and performing the classical music mentioned in the book.
The Massachusetts-based nonprofit education organization, Facing History and Ourselves, created the curriculum, which explores such concepts as what it means to be an outsider, why people choose to help others, and what is a legacy. The historical context of the Holocaust also is examined.
The Pennsylvania-based Annenberg Foundation will produce video resources, including footage of Golabek playing piano and showing how teachers have applied the lessons in their classrooms. It’s due to be completed next summer.
The book itself is available through Hold On To Your Music, a nonprofit founded by Golabek to help make copies available to schools at a discount.
Some 58 public, private and religious schools throughout the country have obtained the curriculum materials, including the lower school of Milken Community High School in Los Angeles. That number will likely grow after next month, when the materials will be shared with Jewish day school principals at a meeting hosted by the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles.
“I think we’ll have a lot of takers,” said Aviva Kadosh, the bureau’s director of day school and Hebrew-language services. The curriculum applies to the study of history, literature and music, she said.
Children from both urban and rural areas have embraced the story and its characters, said Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Foundation. She described how an audience of 4,000 students in Scranton, Pa., “greeted Mona like a rock star. They gave her a standing ovation before she even started to speak.”
“This story spans ages, religions, races and academic disciplines,” said Foley, adding that students are especially affected by Jura’s story because they’re close to the age of Jura at the time the narrative takes place.
Jura was, said Foley, “a firsthand witness to the events of World War II.”
For free downloads of “The Children of Willesden Lane” study guide and CD, visit www.mff.org or www.facinghistory.orgwww.facinghistory.org.