As a child, UW-Whitewater senior Noa Lidan caught glimpses of her grandmother’s life as a Jewish teenager during World War II, listening to stories she hesitantly told by memory. Through these stories, Lidan relived her experiences of constant hiding, waking up to the lingering fear of being captured at any moment.
“My grandma is a brave person and I appreciate her so much for telling these stories,” Lidan said.
It is this first-hand story, as well as many other stories from survivors of the Holocaust, that have molded Lidan’s perspective, and driven her to make sure these stories reach the ears of younger generations while they are still able to be told.
In doing so, Lidan has scheduled an event as the UW-Whitewater Jewish Student Organization president to have Holocaust survivor Howard Melton visit UW-Whitewater to give his first-hand account of life during the time of the Holocaust.
“I knew this was going to be important since a couple of years from now we might not have any survivors left to tell the terrible story of what humans can do and are able to do so we can prevent it in the future,” Lidan said.
Melton, who was born in Lithuania and was 10-years-old when Nazis invaded on June 22, 1941, suffered years in German concentration camps and ghettos, doing whatever he could to stay alive.
Melton’s story, as well as Lidan’s grandmother’s stories, are stories not easily told.
Purposefully scheduling Melton’s appearance on April 19, Lidan has coincided the event with Holocaust Remembrance Day, an observation of honoring the fallen victims of the Holocaust. Lidan said Melton’s speech will be a great way to continue to educate people of the devastation created by the Holocaust.
“It’s not that we keep telling these stories to remind those people of what they did or what there ancestors did,” Lidan said. “It’s about not repeating it.”
Lidan has a very close connection with the victims of the Holocaust, being the granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors. Her grandparents, Bella and Itzhak Perivoskin lived to tell the stories of life during the Holocaust, yet it was hard for either of them to outwardly talk about it, according to Lidan.
“You’re more cold when you go through something like that,” Lidan said. “To be able to tell the whole story from beginning to end is very hard.”
This is why Lidan said Howard Melton has tremendous bravery for being able to tell his story all the way through including details.
This will not be Melton’s first visit on campus. In 2010, UW-Whitewater graduate and Lidan’s fiancé Allon Dor-onn organized Melton’s first campus speaking event. By setting up this second appearance as well as many other contributions, JEO adviser Thomas Drucker said Lidan has shown a commitment to social justice that has been characteristic of many Jews inside of Israel and outside.
“Whether it’s an AIDS walk or an International Students event, Noa has been in the forefront,” Drucker said.
A unique perspective
For JEO, it’s not only guest speakers who bring interesting stories with them. As JEO president, Lidan brings a very unique perspective to the campus group herself.
Growing up in Israel, Lidan has life experiences incomparable to any of her JEO counterparts.
“When one has students like Noa [Lidan] who can talk about Israel and who also understand UW-Whitewater students, discussions are more rewarding and fruitful,” Drucker said.
Until the age of 18, Lidan lived in a community called a “Kibbutz,” which is a society dedicated to social justice and mutual aid, following the principles of joint ownership of property, equality and cooperation of production as well as consumption and education. Lidan said living in the Kibbutz, consisting of 200 families, was a peaceful and fun experience.
After serving two years in the Israeli Defense Force, Lidan moved to New York to be closer to family. In New York, Lidan met Dor-onn, the man who will become her future husband. Dor-onn, a UW-Whitewater student at the time, is what brought Lidan to Wisconsin. After Lidan’s graduation this spring, she and Dor-onn will be moving to Italy together. On June 28, Dor-onn and Lidan will be married in a grape vineyard in Israel.