Well, I have actually made it to 200 blog posts. I wasn’t really counting but the other day I noticed that I was getting close thanks to the features on WordPress. Since I have been told that reaching 200 is somewhat of a milestone, I wanted to make sure that this post was about something important. As such, I want to share with you the recent events that my children were a part of for Holocaust Remembrance Day/Week (Yom HaShoah).
At school, my older son has been studying the artwork of the students of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a Jewish art teacher at the concentration camp Terezin. One of Ms. Dicker-Brandeis’ students was Ela Weissberger. Ela is now 83 and is the subject of the famous book “The Cat With The Yellow Star”.
Here is an short biography of Ela:
In 1942, at the age of 11, Ela Weissberger was sent with her grandmother, mother and sister to Terezin, a concentration camp in what is today known as the Czech Republic. Amidst hardship and duress, she received schooling organized/taught by talented adults who were also imprisoned. The arts were integral to her education. She sang in the opera, Brundibar, while at Terezin and studied visual arts with Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Most of her classmates were eventually sent to death camps. Dicker-Brandeis saved her students’ work by hiding it in suitcases before she went to her own death at Auschwitz. Today Ela Weissberger travels across the United States to speak about her experience.
This week, we were fortunate enough to have Ms. Weissberger spend some time in our city and we were able to hear her speak. But, more importantly, my kids were able to be involved in special performances for and with Ela. My son was part of a condensed performance of Brundibar in honor of a speech Ms. Weissberger was giving to the community and was able to spend some time speaking to her before the program began.
The next day, both my daughter and my son were able to perform “the Victory Song” from Brundibar with the children’s choir (AND ELA HERSELF!) at a special remembrance service at the temple.
As my kids are the only brother/sister duo in the choir (and the play was about a brother and sister facing a tyrant), they were chosen to sing a special part together, present Ela with a special butterfly made out of the children’s handprints (butterflies became the symbol of freedom to those imprisoned so they have a special meaning to her), and they were even invited by Ela to sit by her during parts of the service. They were very excited about this honor, to say the least.
After meeting Ms. Weissberger and hearing her speak, there was no doubt that we were in the presence of a very special person. She was so charismatic and loving to everyone she spoke to and a gentle reminder of how much we all lost during that tragic time in history.
Whether you are Jewish or not (we are an interfaith family), the Holocaust and the lasting effects are something that should never be forgotten. I’m so glad my kids were able to meet such a special lady and learn more about their heritage and history on such a personal level.