By Justin Udo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some area Jewish families played host this weekend to a group of school kids from a small town in Tennessee who came all the way to Philadelphia to learn about the Jewish life and history.

When Sandy Roberts started the Paper Clips Project a few years ago, none of her students had ever met a Jewish person, let alone heard of the Holocaust.

“Our children could not grasp the knowledge of the fact that 11 million individuals, six million Jews and five million others simply vanished,” Roberts said.

She says the project began as an effort to get 6 million paper clips from around the country to represent the victims of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

“Today those paperclips are stored in one of only a known remaining rail cars,” Roberts said. “It sits in front of our school as a symbol of what children can do when they are committed.”

And this weekend, Roberts and a crew of 48 students and chaperones made their way from Whitwell, Tennessee — population 1,700  — to Philadelphia.

Dalton Slatton is one of the students who made the journey with her.

“It’s a life changing experience,” he said. “To learn different things about different cultures, to go to Shabbat services, it’s just an experience like no other. Words just really aren’t there for it.  There’s just a peace in the synagogues during all those services that words just can’t say just how good I feel about it.”

Slatton stayed with David Kestenbaum and his family.

“I gained a couple of life-long friends,” Kestenbaum said. “I can’t wait for them to come back.”

More than a half-dozen local synagogues participated in the trip.

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