Remarks from Gutterman Educators - Julie Gates
Tuesday, May 05, 2020
Standing here is something I never would have imagined growing up, but I am filled with pride to be honored today. I grew up in a very Jewish area of Queens. My parents were second generation Americans, and all four of my grandparents came to the states long before the war.
As a child, little was taught in schools about the Holocaust, and very little was mentioned at home. It was not until I got married and moved to New Jersey that my eyes and mind were opened to the lives of survivors and the more intimate details of the Holocaust. I needed a babysitter for my infant son and someone recommended a woman named Freyda Berkowitz. She was an older woman who was full of life and full of love for my family and my son. We became fast friends and she urged me to join her shul, the First Farmers Synagogue of Perrineville, New Jersey. Growing up with a rich religious background, I was happy to become a member of a strong Jewish community. Little did I know that most members of the synagogue were egg farmers living in the Freehold area who also happened to be survivors. For them, I was a blessing-a kind of second generation since most of their children were not local. I took great joy in the entire experience, all thanks to Freyda.
One snowy night Freyda finally shared her story. She had thirteen brothers and sisters, and only she and her youngest sibling survived. She was the second wife to her then late husband. Her story impacted me deeply, and it stays with me to this day.
Time passed and I moved to Florida with my family and decided to teach school. I was able to find a position at Loggers’ Run Middle School first in the special education department and then social studies. From the time I was given social studies classes I always made sure to incorporate teaching of the Holocaust and genocides around the world.
Over the years I have broadened my knowledge base through programs in the district, in other states and abroad. I also had survivors come and speak. Some years I got grants to fund an art project or a creative film. I even sponsored school wide student awareness days
Two years ago Mr. Captiano then our principal came to me and said he wanted a full course on the Holocaust. I was honored and felt a great responsibility to work with Maureen Carter on the curriculum to ensure it best got the message across to these impressionable students. This year I feel lucky to have taken on the role of teaching the courses. As part of teaching this important courseI have brought survivors and 2nd generation family members to the school in a variety of programs. I expose myself to all opportunities to continue my learning, and this extends to my students as well. Some of my students were docents in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Southern Divison Dinner just last month.
It is my tribute to bring this history to my students so that they continue to remember, and it is my honor to accept this award.