Art and ‘The Righteous’: A Puffin Forum exhibit
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Art and ‘The Righteous’: A Puffin Forum exhibit

We always try to do something about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising," said Gladys Miller-Rosenstein, executive director of the Teaneck-based Puffin Foundation, which provides support to artists who are often outside the mainstream. "This is a time and situation that shouldn’t be forgotten," Miller-Rosenstein said. "Especially now, we want to keep that flame of resistance alive."

"The King, Mainz, Germany" is one of 36 photos by Todd Weinstein in the Puffin Cultural Forum’s exhibition "The Righteous: Resistance During the Holocaust."

Starting on Sunday, Jan. 14, and continuing through February, the Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck will host a series of exhibits, movies, and performances centered on the uprising.

The Forum began exploring the theme eight years ago, working with the group One By One, which hosts a dialogue between children of survivors and children of perpetrators. This year’s exhibit is set to be the Forum’s largest on the subject.

The commemoration, called "The Righteous: Resistance during the Holocaust," will feature work from three artists — Jerzy Bitter, Marius Sznajderman, and Todd Weinstein — exploring the spirit of resistance and hopefulness.

Weinstein, who is based in New York City, began photographing Germany’s Jewish rebirth in the 1980s. In 1995 he traveled to Poland, where he began photographing faces that can be made out in the shadows and objects. These 36 photos became "The Thirty-Six Unknown," a reference to the talmudic idea the continued existence of the world depends upon 36 righteous Jews hidden, even from themselves, in each generation.

"It’s a very poetic interpretation of the 36," Weinstein said. "Nobody knows who they are, they don’t even know themselves."

The project showcases the transition from darkness to light, he added. "’The Thirty-Six Unknown’ is about hope and moving on from the Holocaust."

Marius Sznajderman was born in Paris in 19’6 and escaped to Spain with his parents in 194′ before settling in Venezuela. As a child, he said, he listened to stories of people who hid their Judaism after their time in the camps. Now a resident of Hackensack, Sznajderman created an exhibit based on an idea for a mural on the Warsaw Ghetto, which he began in the 1950s. He will also present a series of woodcuts dealing with the camps. His work should illicit feelings of empathy from his audience, he said.

"The horror of the whole situation, the desperation, the fighting, trying to escape through the sewer," he said. "It’s the whole story of the Warsaw Ghetto and its events."

Those events carry lessons about the courage to oppose injustice, he said. "Don’t just let things happen to you, do something about it; 6,000 warriors did it."

The exhibition will include a series of Shoah-related films, including "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days," "Unlikely Heroes," and Roman Polanski’s "The Pianist."

"It’s not just about victimization," said Tim Blunk, the exhibition’s curator and director of the Puffin Cultural Forum. "There are extraordinary stories of survival — not just survival but humanity rising above tremendous odds. It’s not just about the people whose names we know very well, it’s also in the acts of people whose names we’ll never know who helped people survive."

In February, comedian Karen Reno, a/k/a "Citizen Reno," who has collaborated on films with Lily Tomlin, will give her take on the state of the world. Feeling that a comedian would be a change of pace from the rest of the exhibition, Blunk thought she could highlight the relevancy of the exhibition’s themes.

"You never know quite what she’s going to say, but she’s the kind of person we thought could speak to what’s in the headlines right now and make this current," Blunk said. "It’s almost a mistake to call her a comedian. She’s more of a profound satirist in the tradition of Mark Twain."

Other events include a concert with The Paradox Trio, a quartet led by The Klezmatics’ Matt Darriau, playing Eastern European, Balkan, and Gypsy music; a second concert with Sam Bardfeld, violinist sideman for Bruce Springsteen; and an interview with Rich Cohen, author of "The Avengers: A Jewish War Story."

"What we’re looking at are both themes of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust but also trying to bring that into the present through the survival of the State of Israel and extending the slogan ‘Never Again’ to genocide around the world and looking at our responsibilities of stopping genocide," said Blunk. "We need to hold ourselves to a higher ethical and moral standard."

For more information on the exhibition, visit the Puffin Forum’s section of the foundation’s Website, www.puffinfoundation.org or call (’01) 836-89’3.

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