For years, the children of Holocaust survivors have participated in communal Yom HaShoah observances, helping their parents light a memorial candle or speaking about their parents’ experiences. But this year, children of survivors will speak about themselves.
Wyckoff resident Nancy Recant a documentary filmmaker and chair of Temple Israel in Ridgewood’s Holocaust Remembrance Day event has invited 10 children of survivors to participate in a panel discussion at the synagogue on Tuesday, April ‘5.
The group, including congregants Dr. Sylvia Flescher, Roger Lang, Shirley Birenz, and David Birnbaum, will explore and share their own experiences.
Recant, herself the child of survivors, says the Holocaust has been "a constant theme in my life. I can’t get away from it." While her parents did not discuss it, she was aware that "an awful, big thing had happened."
She says she was always curious about family pictures on the wall of her parents’ home. "I knew I had no extended family or rootedness," she says. Also, "I saw pain and fear in my parents’ expression."
Her husband, Will, assistant executive vice president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, is also the child of survivors. Recant says they have "a lot in common. We grew up in the world, but it was not like our neighbor’s world."
After studying filmmaking in college, Recant was trained by the Shoah Project created by Steven Spielberg to record the testimony of survivors to interview and photograph survivors. Last year, she spoke about this work at Temple Israel’s Yom HaShoah commemoration. She says she was "moved by the response."
"I [spoke about] how to do oral histories, how to record, how to approach the subject," she says, adding that we have all have heard a lot about the Holocaust and are "a little numb." Recant says she is "trying to make it accessible, to [make the subhect] come alive again."
This year’s panel will include Tamara Freeman, who teaches children about racism and holds a doctorate in the music of the Holocaust. Freeman will bring a "rescued viola," a relic of the Holocaust that belonged to a woman who did not survive the camps. Her sister sent it to Freeman. Throughout the evening, Freeman will play both Holocaust music and Yiddish tunes and tell stories about the songs. Another panelist, Jolinda Lieder, will read poetry.
"There has never been a program like this," says Recant. "It’s not just the children of survivors lighting candles. They will talk about how their own experiences have been shaped by their parent’s experiences. They will tell their parents’ stories and offer their own reflections on how this influenced their own lives." Recant says the panel will be open to questions and will try to engage the audience in discussion.
In addition to making films, Recant is a practitioner of the healing art Jin Shin Jyutsu which she describes as "the gentle art of balancing energy in the body, reducing stress."
She hopes the panel discussion will have a healing effect as well. "It has to do with healing the Jewish psyche," she says, with integrating "the dissonance, alienation, woundedness, and burden, and making sense of it as a first-generation American."
"Jews are at a crossroads," she says. "We need to take a hard look at how we’re going to survive to look at our own healing, to arouse awareness. Maybe this will help."
The program, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 8 p.m. For information, call (’01) 444-93’0 or visit www.synagogue.org.