A group of Jewish-American teens joined forces with Israelis to help the next generation remember: “Never again!”
The winners of this year’s Israel-American Council (IAC) Eitanim Summer Hackathon, June 30-July 4, were a group of teens called ConneXt who proposed an app to allow users to closely connect with Holocaust survivors and their stories.
With the assistance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, ConneXt’s app lets users choose the country and age of a Holocaust survivor, whose journey they can follow.
Users can also select a chat feature that would allow sending a message to a survivor and receiving back an AI-generated response based on individual stories programmed into the app, creating a unique exchange between today’s teens and survivors.
In this way, testimonies about the Holocaust will be kept alive long after the survivor passes away.
There is also a share tab that allows users to sign a petition making Holocaust education mandatory throughout the United States. Presently, only six states require Holocaust education.
The hackathon was hosted by Los Angeles-based American Jewish University, which welcomed 170 Jewish-American teens, who joined teen leaders from Educating for Excellence Israel, an organization that strengthens Israeli society by reducing socioeconomic disparity and creating equal opportunities for children who reside within Israel’s social and geographic periphery.
The participants took on the challenge of creating an original teen-oriented product to help keep the stories of the Holocaust alive.
According to the latest survey by Schoen Consulting for the Claims Conference, 66 percent of millennials had never heard of Auschwitz, the largest Nazi concentration camp of World War II. Additionally, 66 percent of respondents of all ages did not personally know or know of a Holocaust survivor.
Among the judges was Dina Porat, Chief Historian of Yad Vashem, who also serves in a number of positions at Tel Aviv University, including Professor Emeritus of Modern Jewish History, Head of the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, and Chair for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism.
“With anti-Semitism on the rise, it’s crucial we keep the haunting memories and lessons of the Holocaust alive to ensure what our people endured is never forgotten,” Porat said of the event.
IAC Eitanim is named for IDF commander Major Eitan Balachsan, who was killed during an operation in Southern Lebanon in 1999. The program draws inspiration from Balachsan’s life and values.