Roman Frayman speaks with purpose. As a Holocaust survivor, he shares his experience, so others don’t forget. As a Jew, he talks to educate others.
“It is about educating people to break the stereotypes,” he said. “Of all the hundreds of children over the 35 years that I’ve taught, at least they will know a survivor.”
When he came to the United States at 11 years old, he realized people didn’t talk about the Holocaust, and he wanted to change that. At 80 years old, Frayman has taught about the Holocaust for 35 years and has spoken at churches, synagogues, high schools, colleges and appears regularly at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Frayman said his motivation to continue teaching others, especially younger generations of the Holocaust comes from the anti-Semitism he and his wife experienced. He remembered a time when his wife was teaching her high school class in the 1960’s and mentioned going home to celebrate the Jewish holidays. A student of hers then asked to see her horns and tail.
“I think I just have to teach and educate,” he said. “I try to teach them that we don’t have tails, we don’t have horns, we don’t get buried standing up with pennies in our eyes. These are all of the things that created hate.”
Through his speaking engagements, Frayman hopes people realize some of their comments that may not seem anti-Semitic are and can encourage hate.
“It’s not only the older people because they are what they are, but to teach young people,” he said. “When I spoke at Gilmour (Academy in Gates Mills), there was one Jewish student in the class and I felt I was educating all of her peers in case there was, and I didn’t sense any anti-Semitism, but just to try to explain that we are just like them.”
His education doesn’t stop with the Holocaust. Frayman has tutored at Citizen Academy in Cleveland, a nonprofit, tuition-free charter school for disadvantaged students. While some time has passed since his volunteering there, he quickly noticed the impact he made there when he was able to pass out dictionaries to the class, which was made possible by the Chagrin Highlands Rotary Club where he also volunteered.
“I felt I was helping out in the African-American community because the children were wonderful young children who started off behind the 8-ball,” he said. “When we passed out the dictionaries, it was very moving to me when a child in the third grade would get a dictionary – they’re heavy, nice dictionaries – they would hug the dictionaries and say, ‘This is my first book.’”
Looking back on his experiences, he encourages others to volunteer in whatever way they can to make a difference through their own community.
“Spread yourself,” Frayman said. “There’s more to life than working and sleeping and there’s so many other causes like volunteering at schools, working a soup kitchen. Try to help other people. Money is not everything, do good and help people.”
– Alyssa Schmitt