The Children of Willesden Lane Bay Area BIG READ

Book cover - The Children of Willesden LaneThank you to all who participated in The Children of Willesden Lane Bay Area BIG READ!

View photos from The Children of Willesden Lane Bay Area BIG READ >

The Children of Willesden Lane Bay Area BIG READ is a powerful education initiative for grades 6-12. It teaches youth about the Holocaust, the importance of standing up against bigotry and hatred, and the transformative nature of art.

The program included a book and classroom activities, and culminated in an award-winning theatrical production by concert pianist and acclaimed storyteller Mona Golabek about how the power of music helped one young woman survive the Holocaust as a refugee. The performance is based on her book, The Children of Willesden LanePerformances took place November 7-10, 2016 at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.

Presented by the JFCS Holocaust Center, in partnership with Bishop O’Dowd High School, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Facing History and Ourselves, Helen and Joe Farkas Center for the Study of the Holocaust in Catholic Schools at Mercy High School, Hold On To Your Music Foundation, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish LearningWorks, Marin County Office of Education, San Francisco Unified School District, and Steinway & Sons, San Francisco.

About the BIG READ

At the center of The Children of Willesden Lane Bay Area BIG READ is the story of Lisa Jura, a musical prodigy from Vienna. Desperate to save her from the Nazis, Lisa’s parents decided to send her to England on the Kindertransport in December 1938.

Through this incredible true story, readers learn about hope, history, and the experience of child refugees in a time of turmoil. The Children of Willesden Lane teaches youth about the Holocaust, the importance of standing up against bigotry and hatred, and the transformative nature of art.

The JFCS Holocaust Center is proud to bring this story to teachers and students in the Bay Area. The Children of Willesden Lane Bay Area BIG READ is comprised of three components:

  • Professional development for educators in the fall of 2016 on using The Children of Willesden Lane in their classrooms
  • Curriculum that teaches students in the Bay Area about identity, moral courage, and the history of the Holocaust through the use of The Children of Willesden Lane
  • An exclusive live theatrical retelling of the book for students and teachers in November 2016

Download The Children of Willesden Lane Bay Area BIG READ flyer >

For additional information and resources about the Kindertransport, please visit our Kindertransport Resources page >

The Bay Area BIG READ is made possible through the generosity of the following Foundations: Berland Foundation, Koret Foundation, Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation. Generous individual contributors include: Valli Benesch and Bob Tandler, Riva and David Berelson, Julie Brandt, Lynn Bunim, Suzanne and Elliott Felson, Anita Friedman and Igor Tartakovsky, Mona Golabek, The Golden Family, Adean and Ben Golub, Sally and Richard Goodman, Joan & David Karlin, Susan and Moses Libitzky, Jacqueline Neuwirth and Stephen Swire, Joyce Newstat and Susan Lowenberg, Paul Orbuch, Karen Pell and Heather Lupa, Gerald Rosenstein z’l, Dan Safier, Lydia Shorenstein, Laura Talmus and Ace Smith, Tramiel Charitable Trust, and Luba Troyanovsky.

If you would like to make sure that future generations learn about the Holocaust, please call Barbara Farber, Director of Development at 415-449-3858 or email: [email protected].

For Educators and Students

The JFCS Holocaust Center is happy to announce exciting new opportunities for professional development! All Northern California teachers grades 6-12 are invited to these very special opportunities. This interactive training is part of the BIG READ initiative that teaches students about the Holocaust and the transformative nature of art. Enroll and attend one of these workshops, and you and your students will automatically be eligible to attend an incredible live performance in November.

Educators Receive:

  • Professional development training during the fall of 2016 on using The Children of Willesden Lane to engage in classroom activities about the history of the Holocaust, moral courage, and the transformative nature of art.
  • A set of classroom books of The Children of Willesden Lane.
  • Attendance at a live performance with your students and other school communities from around Northern California during the second week of November, 2016 in San Francisco.

Students Receive: 

Middle and high school students from around Northern California will learn about the Holocaust through two inspirational pieces of art by Mona Golabek.

  • The Children of Willesden Lane, a powerful book that tells the amazing and true story of her mother’s escape from the Holocaust. The book celebrates her eventual triumph honing and sharing the music she brought from her lost home with the community she has created in her new adopted home.
  • Students will also attend a live performance of The Children of Willesden Lane, a theatrical re-imagining of Ms. Golabek’s book, allowing young audiences to hear the very music that sustained her mother and be similarly moved and transported by these works of classical music.

Thanks to generous donors, this program is offered at no cost to Northern California middle and high school teachers and their students.

Help spread the word! Download the BIG READ flyer >


Over 7,000 students and teachers from Northern California participated in the program which included a theatrical performance of The Children of Willesden Lane, a show that has been making its way around the country with spectacular reviews.


San Francisco Chronicle
“For many students, Lisa Jura’s story of change and hardship in an unfamiliar land is not unlike their own experiences.”  Read the full article >

“You look at one person’s story and from there you can see how other people related to it.”  Listen to the story >

“After class, some of the students reflect on the book and its meaning. ‘What this 14-year-old went through is really crazy,’ said Christian. ‘She hasn’t lost hope. American youth, we’re so used to having everything come to us quick, we can lose hope.’”  Read the full article >

The Press Democrat
“’In terms of the timing, it just really worked out,’ said Kate McGerity a teacher at Rancho Cotate who taught the program to her 10th-grade world history students. ‘It worked as kind of a platform or a jumping off place to responding to prejudice, and the kind of hatreds we’re seeing.’” Read the full article >

The Jewish Post & Opinion
“It was an amazing accomplishment to have so many students learning important lessons from the Holocaust.”  Read the full article (begins on page 10) >

Response from Students and Teachers

“Learning about the Holocaust has never felt so personal and awe-inspiring. Thank you again for your generosity and for this memorable learning experience of the Holocaust. I enjoyed every part of this adventure.” – Student, Lowell High School, San Francisco  See more from Lowell High School >

“Thank you!  My students really enjoyed your book and live performance of The Children of Willesden Lane. My students learned to appreciate family, use music to bring people together, and to face the bad with the good.  A 7th grade student wrote, “Mona Golabeck’s piano playing was incredible – it could cast a shadow of darkness, light a path of hope, or simply leave you astonished of her incredible talent.” Thank you again. – Teacher, Britton Middle School

“THANK YOU ALL for an absolutely fantastic experience in person, history, and literature — these are the types of lessons that last a long time. – Teacher, Francisco Middle School, San Francisco

“[Lisa Jura] was independent and courageous, and had qualities that I wish to emulate. Thank you!” – Student, St. Anselm School

Community Involvement

Honorary Committee

Senator Barbara Boxer, United States Senator, California
Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools
Assemblymember David Chiu, 17th District (San Francisco)
Supervisor Malia Cohen, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Andy David, Israel’s Consul General to the Pacific Northwest
Supervisor Mark Farrell, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Senator Dianne Feinstein, United States Senator, California
Reverend Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., President, University of San Francisco
Mona Golabek, Artist and Author of The Children of Willesden Lane
Matt Haney, President, SFUSD Board of Education
Mayor Edwin M. Lee, San Francisco
Senator Mark Leno, 11th Senate District of California (San Francisco and Northern Peninsula)
Assemblymember Marc Levine, 10th District (Marin and Sonoma)
Susan Mall, Vice President, San Francisco Public Library Commission
Supervisor Eric Mar, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, 22nd District (North Peninsula)
Emily M. Murase, PhD, Commissioner, San Francisco Board of Education
Michael G. Pappas, Executive Director, San Francisco Interfaith Council
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader, United States House of Representatives
Supervisor Aaron Peskin, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Abigail Porth, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council
Ralph Samuel, JFCS Holocaust Center Speakers Bureau and Kindertransport survivor
Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland
Rita Semel, Co-Founder, San Francisco Interfaith Council
Assemblymember Phil Ting, 19th District (San Francisco and North Peninsula)
Clemantine Wamariya, Rwandan Genocide Survivor and Human Rights Advocate
Supervisor Scott Wiener, San Francisco Board of Supervisors

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