The Willesden Project

The Willesden Project

With extraordinary support from the Koret Foundation, USC Shoah Foundation has partnered with the Hold On to Your Music Foundation to launch The Willesden Project.

This global initiative expands the reach of Lisa Jura's story of survival, resilience, and triumph as she struggles to come of age separated from her family during World War II, as originally shared by her daughter, author and concert pianist Mona Golabek, in The Children of Willesden Lane books and musical performances.

Extend the impact of a powerful narrative and engage students with the message that we hold within ourselves the power to overcome hatred.

Explore family and classroom activities below.

Learn more at The Willesden Project.


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Creating Space for Challenging Conversations

Educators should always strive to create safe and affirming spaces where students are supported to engage in challenging conversation and investigate issues that impact their lives. However, when teaching about topics like genocide, hate, justice, identity, race, and others, it becomes even more important to stop and reflect on the types of supports that are in place for students to engage in this dialogue.

Elementary Related Activities

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Supporting Social-Emotional Learning Through Testimony

This prep guide will focus on aiding an educator in connecting the important themes that are the focus of The Willesden Project activities with social-emotional learning competencies.

Lisa of Willesden Lane and SEL Skills

How can the stories of others help me become more resilient? During this lesson, students use the themes from Lisa Jura's story to connect with their own lived experiences using the five competencies of Self-Management, Responsible Decision-Making, Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, and Relationship Skills.

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What passion, talent, or interest do I have that helps me define who I am (my identity)? Geared toward younger learners, this activity engages students with a sharing activity about the teacher’s and students’ favorite hobbies or interests, and a discussion of how hobbies and interests are an important part of every person’s identity.

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The Kindertransport

What are different experiences people face on their refugee journeys? This activity is designed to support Lisa of Willesden Lane and engages students in a discussion of why people must sometimes move to other places. Students will: Brainstorm and list challenges people face when they move.

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Overcoming Adversity

What do the terms adversity and resilience mean? This activity engages students with a discussion of the meaning of the terms “adversity” and “resilience,” especially when discussing refugees. Students will reflect on Lisa of Willesden Lane to cite examples of adversity faced by Lisa Jura, the book’s central figure, who was a refugee on the Kindertransport.

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Friendships and Human Connection

This activity engages students with the topic of friendship and the power of human connection to help us persevere during challenging times. Students will begin by using a thinking routine to explore the complexity behind friendships and why human connections mean so much to us.

Middle School Activities

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Spiritual Resistance

Investigate the meaning of spiritual resistance using authentic testimony from survivors of the Holocaust. Students will explore how human dignity has been preserved in the face of oppression, before brainstorming an original concept that can be used to raise awareness about spiritual resistance locally.

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Women and Resistance

Uncover the crucial role that women have played in standing up against oppression throughout human history. After exploring a variety of examples from around the globe of real women supporting resistance movements, students will collaborate on a group research activity then share their findings with their community.

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The Jewish Refugee Crisis of the 1930s

What challenges confront refugees attempting to relocate to safe places? Through this activity students will analyze accounts of Jewish refugees who attempted to flee Nazi territories between 1933 and the beginning of World War II.

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Resisting Injustice

This activity engages students with the topic of resistance during times of genocide as it relates to strength and human dignity. Students will be introduced to the different forms resistance can take, such as cultural resistance, spiritual resistance, and strategic or armed resistance.

High School Activities

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Community and Resistance

Discover the powerful role that community played for dissidents and resistance movements during the Holocaust, as students reflect on their own relationship to community. After learning about the role of community in a historical dissident uprising, students will take on a creative challenge to apply what they’ve learned locally.

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Music as Resistance

In this activity, students will investigate the importance of music as a tool for resistance to oppression and injustice. Using examples from both the past and present, students analyze different ways that music has been used and consider what it means to resist in the face of extreme adversity and injustice.

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Testimony and Artistic Expression

How can personal testimony inform our understanding of historical events? Students will develop a greater understanding of the link between testimony and artistic expression. By analyzing excerpts from The Children of Willesden Lane and pieces of artistic expression from genocide survivors, students will build upon their sense of empathy, historical understanding, and discipline-specific literacies.

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Confronting Refugee Challenges

What challenges confront refugees attempting to relocate to safe places? Designed for middle and high school students, this classroom activity guides students through why some people are forced to flee from their homes to seek safety from persecution and genocide.

Family Activities

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The Sound of Willesden Lane

In this activity, families will explore the story of Lisa Jura, a talented young musician who dreams of becoming a concert pianist. Through her story, families will build on their understanding of the Kindertransport and work with their students to dive into the concepts of perseverance and resilience. Together families will deepen the connection between music and testimony.

Listen to Mona play the piano

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Understanding Emotions

As a family this activity will help to identify, define, and act out facial expressions for different human emotions. You will identify different emotions Lisa may have felt at various points in the story and create a picture book to reflect on their own experiences with various emotions.

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Our Family Is

Celebrate the unique qualities of your loved ones with a family activity highlighting the power of courage in families and relationships. Students will practice key social-emotional learning competencies as they consider the courage and other key qualities that have enabled their family members to overcome adversity.

Supporting Books

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Hold On to Your Music

Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

The Inspiring True Story of Willesden Lane

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Lisa of Willesden Lane

Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

A True Story of Music and Survival During World War II

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The Children of Willesden Lane

Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War II Young Readers Edition

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The Children of Willesden Lane

Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival

Supporting Testimonies

Related Topic Activities

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Conflict and Refugees

What does it mean to be a refugee - and what challenges do refugees, displaced persons, and asylum seekers face? Explore topics related to human rights with activities that open up the lines of communication and empower students to take action.

Virtual Field Trip

Making a New Life: The Courage of a Refuge

Explore how refugees adjust to their new homes and cultures.

Learn More

About The Partners

USC Shoah Foundation


USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education is dedicated to making audio-visual interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides, a compelling voice for education and action. The Institute's current collection of 55,000 eyewitness testimonies contained within its Visual History Archive preserves history as told by the people who lived it, and lived through it. Housed at the University of Southern California, within the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the Institute works with partners around the world to advance scholarship and research, to provide resources and online tools for educators, and to disseminate the testimonies for educational purposes. 

Discovery Education


Discovery Education is the worldwide edtech leader whose state-of-the-art digital platform supports learning wherever it takes place. Through its award-winning multimedia content, instructional supports, and innovative classroom tools, Discovery Education helps educators deliver equitable learning experiences engaging all students and supporting higher academic achievement on a global scale. Discovery Education serves approximately 4.5 million educators and 45 million students worldwide, and its resources are accessed in nearly 100 countries and territories. Inspired by the global media company Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc., Discovery Education partners with districts, states, and trusted organizations to empower teachers with leading edtech solutions that support the success of all learners. Explore the future of education at