To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Brandeis Hosts Tom Fabric: Loss, Gender, and the Holocaust

On Oct. 11th, Brandeis hosted a hybrid event featuring six members of the HBI Holocaust Research Study Group (HRSG). The event brought together Debra Kaufman, Laurel Leff, Rachel Rapperport Munn, Karin Rosenthal, Sarah Silberstein Swartz and Ornit Barkai. They discussed aspects of their research and work with themes focusing on the “Lives Eliminated, Dreams Illuminated” exhibit. 

According to the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute website, The “Lives Eliminated, Dreams Illuminated” exhibit is an “immersive exhibition of painting and music. Painter Lauren Bergman and composer Ella Milch-Sheriff honor young women and girls murdered in the Holocaust by using art to imagine the lives they might have led.” 

Also on the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute website is a description of HRSG and their mission. It states that, “The HRSG is a multidisciplinary group of women scholars actively working on individual Holocaust related projects. Our members include a journalist, a prose writer, a public artist, a poet, a fine art photographer, a sociologist, a public health professor, and a film-maker. The HSRG provides a constructive, feminist-based critique of overarching themes and questions relating to the Holocaust including how gender affects evolving Holocaust narratives as well as the methodology, process, and product of individual projects.” 

The event commenced with an opening statement from Shulamit Reinharz Director of Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Lisa Joffe, acknowledging the ongoing conflicts in Israel. She expressed condolences and a commitment to take further action, highlighting the Institutes’s dedication to fostering meaningful dialogues surrounding critical global issues. 

One of the highlights of the event was a poignant reflection by Rachel Munn, who shared insights from her personal journey and connection to the “Lives Eliminated, Dreams Illuminated” exhibit. Munn’s emotional account touched on the profound impact of loss, reimagining the experiences of her sister Rivke, one of the 1.5 million Jewish children tragically murdered by the Nazis. Rivke, barely 14, and her younger brother, a mere nine years old, fell victim to the horrors of concentration camps, sacrificing their childhoods in the process.

The next panelist, Debra Kaufman, shed light on the history of a once-thriving town, decimated by the Nazis. Over half of its population, leading ordinary lives, were soon captured and taken by the Nazis. The Nazis established a “barbed barrier, caging in the Jewish population,” said Kaufman, which ultimately led to forced labor camps and ghettos in neighboring towns. 

The event also featured a deeply moving account from Karin Rosenthal, who embarked on a journey to Poland in search of records pertaining to a loved one’s birth. The records offered a stark reminder of the harsh realities faced by Jewish individuals during those times. 

The HBI Holocaust Research Study Group is dedicated to preserving the memories of those lost in the Holocaust. Their work stands as a powerful reminder of the importance of remembrance, understanding and a steadfast commitment to preventing such atrocities from happening again. 

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