Jewish Museum London announces new mental health programme for schools linked to Holocaust Education

The Jewish Museum London is pleased to announce that a new programme to support young people with their mental health and wellbeing around grief and loss will be created in the memory of Solly Irving, a Holocaust Survivor who spoke to students at the museum for many years. Solly’s legacy programme will enable the museum to use the objects and documents in the collection, donated by Solly during his lifetime, to help young people to understand what it is to live a life with loss; something that Solly often spoke about with the students as he was the sole survivor of his family.

Holocaust Memorial Day is an important time when the international community comes together to remember those who died in the Holocaust. Together, we light candles and recite the names of individuals and communities who were killed. We do this to ensure that they are not forgotten—to continue their legacy. The Jewish Museum London is deeply honoured to be able to continue the legacy of Solly Irving’s family through our new programme ‘Life with Loss: Understanding Grief and Memory.’ We are also pleased to make this announcement on Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 and to be launching the programme to all schools from Holocaust Memorial Day 2022.

Solly was born in Poland in 1930 and was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. He came to Britain in 1945 as part of ‘The Boys,’ a group of young Holocaust survivors who were taken in by Britain after the war. Solly worked alongside the Jewish Museum London for many years speaking to thousands of young people through our learning programmes, recording filmed testimony and donating personal objects and photographs to the museum’s collection.

For the ‘Life with Loss: Understanding Grief and Memory’ project the Jewish Museum London will be designing and creating a workshop founded in our collection and centered around Solly’s personal story. It will develop on our previous work with mental health partners to help support young people talk about grief and loss and learn from Solly’s words.  Our workshop will use filmed testimony of Solly to open a dialogue on grief and loss. Facilitated discussions and creative response activities will help students process this difficult topic and reflect on the importance of memory.

Throughout 2021 the Museum will be working with pilot schools and partnering with mental health and wellbeing experts to develop this innovative workshop for students. The full programme is due to launch to all schools in January 2022 and will include a bursary scheme to ensure that all students are able to access this programme.

The Jewish Museum London would like to thank the Irving Family for their generous support for this programme and for enabling the Museum to support the legacy of Solly for generations to come.

 The family of Solly Irving said,:

“Our father taught many people, young and old, about his Holocaust experiences.  We are very pleased to have helped ensure that his memory will be associated with this new and innovative programme, which will help the youth of today learn to deal with their own personal challenges of coping with loss by hearing of the experiences of our father and others.”

 Frances Jeens, Interim Director of Jewish Museum London, said,:

I am honoured to share the news of this new programme for young people at the Jewish Museum London. Supporting young people to speak openly about grief and loss is a privilege and something that I believe is, sadly, needed more now than ever before, with many young people experiencing grief and loss for the first time due to Covid-19.

Solly already has a collection at the Museum which includes testimony, objects and archives. A small part of these were used in early 2020 in the ‘Your Legacy and Me’ exhibition, curated by young people. Solly’s experiences connect to young people and his legacy will benefit a great many students. When we spoke of Solly, one of our strongest memories was how he would speak about being the sole survivor of his family, and his openness to speak about the emotions behind this reality. This, alongside seeing his creativity in creating a quilt square as part of the ‘45 Aid Society’ exhibition we hosted many years ago, was the foundation for this programme.

We will continue the legacy of Solly by working with young people and helping them to understand the importance of openly speaking about grief and loss and also the importance of memory in Judaism. Solly’s legacy will also enable us to speak both about Survivors as well as those who perished in the Holocaust.

It will be our privilege to deliver this work and continue the memory of Solly Irving.