a message to GenZ – The Australian Jewish News

After years of being told she “doesn’t look Jewish” or have a Jewish-sounding name, social media sensation Montana Tucker is proud to own her legacy with an educational docu-series on TikTok.

Earlier this year, Tucker took a film crew to Poland to capture the story of her mother’s parents during the Holocaust, which was adapted into a 10-part series.

“It was my responsibility to do this, for me and my grandparents and everyone else,” said Tucker, whose series has been viewed by millions of people.

“My grandparents fought for their lives to be Jewish,” Tucker said The Times of Israel in an interview.

With nearly nine million followers on TikTok, Tucker is known for filming well-choreographed dance segments with performers from around the world. Depending on the scene, Tucker can play alongside a boy in Santa Monica, a famous rap artist, or her own mother.

Montana Tucker at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. Photo: delivered

“People are used to seeing my very lighthearted, fun dance videos and me collaborating with a lot of different people,” said the 29-year-old. “It’s rare for me and my content, and rare for the platform in general, to have a docu-series about the Holocaust.”

Cut into two minute segments, How To: Never Forget immerses youngsters in the story of the genocide of six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II. To give viewers hope and encourage them to be “insurgents,” the series also sheds light on Polish families who risked their lives to save Jews.

@montanatucker I am beyond sad and sick at heart with all the ANTISEMETISM going on in our world. HOW is HATE against ANY religion, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc. allowed/tolerated?!? My grandparents are Holocaust SURVIVORS – 77 years later and it’s still happening?! • Join me on my journey around the world to witness the atrocities of the Holocaust and delve even deeper into my family’s Holocaust survival story. Sharing your story with you is the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done with my platform. Episode 2 is out on November 1st. Join me in making sure we #never forget #never again #holocaust #education #nohate #jewish #anti-Semitism #endanti-Semitism ♬ Original sound – Montana Tucker

“This docu-series is very different,” said Tucker. “It’s not like reading a history book. We didn’t have a script. It’s authentic and real, and what I feel and see is what the viewer feels and sees,” she said.

In more than two decades of work in show business, Tucker has regularly encountered examples of anti-Semitism.

Most commonly, people ask Tucker if she’s “actually Jewish” based on her looks and name, and in recent years Tucker has lost thousands of TikTok followers for posting about her family’s Holocaust history.

“They’re trying to make us feel bad about the Jews,” typified negative comments posted in response to their Holocaust-related videos, Tucker said.

Earlier this month, Tucker was attacked online after he took on NBA star Kyrie Irving over his anti-Semitic remarks.

After Irving used Twitter to recommend a documentary full of anti-Jewish poignancy, Tucker urged the basketball player to apologize and learn about the Holocaust through her family’s history.

“The comments [people posted] were very scary,” Tucker said. “You don’t know any better, a lot of people who look up to someone like Kyrie Irving. That’s why it’s so dangerous.”

The release of How To: Never Forget coincided with the 10 days leading up to Kristallnacht.

Tucker first visited Israel eight years ago as part of a Birthright Israel trip. Although she was already proud of her Jewish identity, attending Birthright took Tucker’s connection to a new level, she said.

“It was like family there. You have this crazy connection right away,” Tucker said. “I absolutely have to go back.”

Much of her Jewish identity stems from her grandparents, who survived the Holocaust.

“My grandparents were my everything,” Tucker said. “It was so important to them to be proud to be Jewish. My Zaidi wore a pin that said ‘never again, never forget’.”

According to her tour guide in Poland, Zack Jeffay, during filming, Tucker was very busy learning as much as she could about the lives of her relatives before the war and during the genocide.

“Montana is deeply connected to her grandparents, both as Holocaust survivors and as role models in their lives, who are dear to her heart,” Jeffay told The Times of Israel. “On that level, it was an amazing experience to guide someone through the stories that were clearly so defining in their lives.

“A particularly touching moment was finding seven members of her extended family who had been murdered there [the former death camp] Belzec, of whose existence the family had no idea,” he added.

On social media, Tucker is known for her anti-bullying stance and her partnership with, for example, cast members with disabilities. An accomplished recording artist, Tucker’s most popular song is called Be Myself, an anthem for anyone who has ever been bullied.

In recent interviews, Tucker spoke of her week in Poland as the most rewarding, but also the most challenging, experience of her life.

The emotional epicenter of the trip was Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Tucker’s grandmother saw her parents for the last time. They were among the one million Jews who were murdered in the gas chambers in Birkenau, including hundreds of thousands of children.

Montana Tucker at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. Photo: delivered

“I stood with my mother where her mother last saw her parents,” said Tucker, who spoke about the inconsistency of visiting Holocaust sites in Poland.

“It was shocking to me that it’s such a beautiful country,” Tucker said. “Many of them [killing sites] were surrounded by houses and apartment buildings, people going about their normal lives.”

In an encounter not featured in the documentary series, Tucker met a Pole who has been the caretaker of an abandoned synagogue for decades.

“He learned Hebrew himself to take care of it,” Tucker said. “He’s been doing it for 20 years and said he felt if he didn’t do it, nobody else would.”

By all accounts, the arrival of Tucker’s docu-series couldn’t be more timely. With anti-Semitic attacks and incidents in the daily news, the series exposes youth to the outcome of hatred that is not controlled.

“For young Jews and young people around the world, Montana instills a real sense of pride in who you are and where you come from through the show,” Jeffay said.

“It’s our responsibility,” Tucker said. “The series opens people’s eyes and shows that you can also do good on social media.”

times of Israel

Follow Montana Tucker on TikTok and Instagram with the handle @montanatucker