Brandeis commemorates Holocaust Rememberance Day

April 20, 2007

Brandeis students, faculty and members of the greater Boston Jewish community gathered in the Wasserman Cinematheque in Sachar on Sunday to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The commemoration, planned by the Holocaust Remembrance Committee headed by Elana Levi 07 and Jillian Moss 09, took place as part of the National Center for Jewish Films tenth annual Jewish film festival. The festival began April 12 and will continue through April 22. As part of Yom HaShoah, the festival presented the film Dear Mr. Waldman by Hanan Peled, the man behind the Israeli version of Sesame Street. Peled flew in from Israel for the event.

The evening began with music performed a cappella by Jessica Freiman 07, Ariella Newberger 09, and Adam Ross 10 who sang songs in Hebrew and English reflecting the evenings theme of remembrance before an auditorium of middle-aged and elderly members of the Boston area, as well as a smattering of Brandeis students.
The burden is now on your shoulders/ though youve never met me/ you must remember me/ now that Im gone, they sang.

Ross commented, It was very meaningful for me [to participate]. I dont have close family that died in the Holocaust but just as a representative of my people, it means a lot to me to come together. One song that particularly resonated with Ross, Commemorated the memories that could have been if they hadnt perished.

He added, Were living in a very different time because the last generation [of Holocaust survivors] is passing away. Were also living in a time when people are denying that the Holocaust happened. [Its] even more important for stories to be told and transmitted through our generation. He added, Were living in a very different time because the last generation [of Holocaust survivors] is passing away. Were also living in a time when people are denying that the Holocaust happened. [Its] even more important for stories to be told and transmitted through our generation.

After the singing, Jonathan Eskow 08 and Allison Schotenstein 08, grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, emerged to tell their stories.

Eskow explained, I, as a grandchild of a survivor and a Jew, promisemost importantly, to never forget. He then went on to describe his grandfathers heroics when he was able to sneak his younger brother into the group destined for work rather than the gas chamber. When Steven Spielberg made a documentary of interviews with Holocaust survivors, Eskows grandfather was among them.

Following Eskow, Schottenstein spoke. A member of the Holocaust Remembrance Committee, she explained her tenuous relationship with Judaism growing up. Why was I? Did it make sense to be a Jew? she asked. She then explained troubling experiences with Holocaust education at the Evangelical school she attended.

While comments such as why do have to learn about this thing that happened sixty years ago? greatly upset Schottenstein, it was not until The Diary of Anne Frank was performed at her school that she understood her obligation to make others understand her grandfathers story.

Schottenstein looked to her grandfathers strength and resilience to revitalize her commitment to Judaism and to help transform her Yellow star from a symbol of weakness to a symbol of strength.

According to Schottenstein, It was very meaningful for me to think about the storybecause it was something that I went through. Its an important part of my life. That experience [of attending an Evangelical school] was so much affected by my relationship with my grandfather. Additionally, Schottenstein wanted to show people how the Holocaust never goes away. My grandfather may have died [but]who he is has affected my moms life and my life.

Schottenstein added that her grandfathers story will affect the next generation of her family as well.

The story lives with you forever, she said. Beyond an expression of personal collective memory, Schottenstein commented that discussing stories of survivors is important for people who dont have a relationship with the Holocaust. She said, The Holocaust story is a part of all of us. Its a part of every generation. I also think how important it is for people who arent Jewishhow important it is to know that the story of Holocaust does not go away.

After the presentations from students, Professor Jerry Cohen (AMST) chanted a prayer, which was followed by a recitation of the Mourners Kaddish by Jewish Chaplain Rabbi Lehman. Six memorial candles were then lit to remember the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Afterwards, Hanan Peled introduced his film, Dear Mr. Waldman. Peled, the son of Holocaust survivors, explained that the film was originally intended to be about his childhood in Tel Aviv [but] the Holocaust sneaked in.

The Holocaust is part of my identity, he explained. He added that growing up, he and his brother felt the obligation to make my parents happyto make up for the pain and suffering.

The film, told from the perspective of a young boy who is dangerously in tune with his fathers pain, follows the story of a family of survivor parents and two sons, paralleling Peleds family. The difficulties survivors have creating new lives in the shadows of lives lost is illustrated by the father, Moishe. Moishe, like Peleds father, lost his first wife and son in the Holocaust.

One day Moishe sees a photograph of President Kennedy and his young advisor, Jack Waldman, whom Moishe thinks strikes a haunting resemblance to his dead son Yankel. This photograph sparks hope that Yankel may have miraculously survived and made his way to America. Despite the unlikelihood of his idea, Moishe becomes obsessed with it, and loses sight of the family he still has.

Hilik, Moishes seven-year-old son, grows fearful of his fathers old family and tries anything possible to please his father, including forging a letter from Jack Waldman confirming Moishes hopes. After learning of his sons forgery and a brief tryst with a deeply disturbed Holocaust survivor, Moishe finds his way back to his new family in Israel. The film ends happily but Hilik explains that his father was never fully with their family.

Building on the theme of collective memory and the experience of the second generation, Peled commented more on his experience as a child of survivors at the conclusion of the film.

My parents didnt understand me or my brother, he commented, they were always preoccupied with surviving [but] we needed some mental support.

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