‘A Sacred Culture Rebuilt’ at Museum of Tolerance


Just inside the fluorescent-lit room, six picnic-style tables were supplied with arts and crafts essentials: scissors, glue sticks and stock photos. 

“A lot of survivors don’t have pictures,” said Lori Shocket, artist and curator of the hands-on exhibition, so she came prepared with a Ziploc baggie filled with spare images: cut-outs of Auschwitz, yellow Jude stars and cattle cars.

On Nov. 9, five Holocaust survivors attended the first of four workshops held at the Museum of Tolerance (MOT). (The final workshop will take place on Dec. 7 and a fifth workshop will be held in Las Vegas on Dec. 14.) 

Survivors were told to bring pictures, documents and memorabilia — anything that held meaning and helped to tell their story. 

Those artifacts were scanned, printed, cut out and placed on a 10-by-10 canvas board. The boards will be displayed and digitized in an exhibition called “Memory Reconstruction: A Sacred Culture Rebuilt.” 

“The exhibit, although it’s conceived by me, is actually done by the survivors,” Shocket said. “They’re the artists, in essence.” 

At the workshop, a 15-year-old volunteer, part of the museum’s MOTivating Youth Volunteer Program, helped Holocaust survivor Albert Rosa, 98, paste a black-and-white cutout of Auschwitz onto his collage. This is where his family perished 70 years ago. 

“I remember those tracks,” he told the volunteer.

Shocket is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, artist Siegfried Knop. “When I grew up, he never told me any part of his Holocaust story, just little bits, and I could never grasp them,” she said.

But that changed two years ago, when Shocket and her father started painting together. 

“Once we started painting, it was like a door opened, and he started talking about his story, every detail, and it was amazing to hear.” These in-studio talks eventually inspired a series of collaborative paintings by the father-daughter duo.

After hearing her father’s stories, she realized how crucial it was to document survival stories. At the time, Shocket had just finished a 15-foot installation titled “The Human Element Project” for a temporary exhibition at the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine Art Gallery, shown from July to October of this year, before moving to a permanent collection at DOW Research and Technology Center in Collegeville, Pa. 

The massive installation consisted of 118 anatomical portraits, each canvas representing an element on the periodic chart.

Shocket adapted the concept to this current project. Using the periodic table as her muse, she is collecting 118 (the number of elements) collaged testimonies for the final exhibition.  Each testimony represents an element on the table. 

“They’re like sound bites of their experiences, visual vignettes,” the artist explained.

The centerpiece will be a collaborative painting by Shocket, her father and artist Doni Silver Simons, which will tie together the concept of the project.

When the survivor participants arrived at the first workshop, Shocket showed them examples of finished collages, one of which was her father’s. 

“That’s him,” she said, referring to a black-and-white photograph of a boy with slicked-back hair. 

“And that’s his sister,” she said, pointing to a faded picture of a woman reading on a Berlin balcony, with a curtain of Nazi flags behind her suspended from buildings. Beside her photo was the last letter her father ever received from his sister. 

Some survivors came to the MOT with their families, others came alone.

Avrami Hacker, 13, was joined by his father, Adi, and his grandfather, Ernst. Three generations of Hackers worked on the collages. Avrami wanted to do a project for his upcoming bar mitzvah, and, because he’s part of MOT’s teen program, he’d heard about the workshop. 

“This is so special,” Avrami said. “I learned about the camps where my grandfather went, and the letters he sent from Theresienstadt [concentration camp] to his friends in Vienna.” 

Like Shocket’s studio session with her father, the workshops gave survivors a chance to reminisce as they combed through old photographs.

Especially with this project, time is of the essence. 

When Liebe Geft, director of the MOT, first heard about Shocket’s artistic vision, she knew she wanted to debut the completed exhibition at the museum’s next Yom HaShoah commemoration in April 2015. 

Geft explained, “In order to do that, we really had to accelerate the process and schedule workshops, do the outreach and identify the partners. And Lori’s working at triple speed.”

After everyone else had finished their collaged elements and gone home, survivor Elizabeth Mann was still working on her collage. 

The remaining volunteers and staff members sat around her as she held court. With the room nearly empty, she talked about her youth, growing up in Kecskemet, Hungary, about her father and mother and about playing the piano. 

“I never played the piano again after my parents were killed,” Mann said. “Never again.”

“The numbers in the Shoah are staggering, they are unfathomable,” Geft said. “It’s difficult to relate to these numbers. But one person, one name, one face makes it very personal.”

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday

The Daniel Pearl Music Day continues on this week and into November. Those paying homage today include Kehillat Israel of the Pacific Palisades, which will honor Pearl’s memory during its Shabbat service, and Madeline Felkin and Deanna France, who perform classical, baroque, Celtic fiddle and folk music at Madeline Felkin’s Fiddlefest in Palmdale – yes, seriously. Tomorrow, Emanuel Arts Center, The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles and the American Youth Symphony each participate separately. Visit the Daniel Pearl Foundation Web site for details on all events.

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Sunday

Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman lends his moderating talents to two of-the-moment debates this week. Today, he heads to the University of Judaism (and so should you) to ref an “Election 2004 – The Jewish Vote” verbal sparring match between Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Larry Greenfield and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys). Then Tuesday, Eshman leads a public forum at Temple Beth Am discussing “A Jewish Perspective on Stem Cell Research.” Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Dr. Stephen Forman, Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky and Ken Bernstein, a Type 1 diabetic, will offer their religious, scientific and personal perspectives on the subject.

Oct. 17, 7:45 p.m. $10. University of Judaism, Bel Air. (310) 440-1246.
Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m. Free. Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353.

Monday

Wax nostalgic today with Counterpoint’s new CD, “When the Rabbi Danced: Songs of Jewish Life From the Shtetl to the Resistance.” The choir sings a compilation of some of the best-loved Yiddish and Hebrew music, ranging from the religious to the political to the romantic.

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Tuesday

Dentures, cherubic dolls and iron wheels become art in the hands of collage maker Eva Kolosvary-Stupler. Her experiences as a child Holocaust survivor and later of communism have always informed her work. Her latest exhibition of assemblages, “Magical Transformations,” is on view at the Don O’Melveny Gallery through Oct. 27.

9009 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. (310) 273-7868.

Wednesday

Feeling Kinky? Not everyone does, but today was made for lovers – of Kinky Friedman, that is. The rabble rouser, writer and Texas gubernatorial candidate comes to Pasadena to sign his new book, “‘Scuse Me While I Whip This Out.” This time, Friedman gets personal, telling stories of his unusual life, which has intersected with that of Bill Clinton’s, George W.’s and Bob Dylan’s, among others.

7 p.m. Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 449-5320.

Thursday

The intimate Black Dahlia Theatre accommodates “An Infinite Ache” this month. The David Schulner play introduces us to Charles (a Jewish guy) and Hope (an Asian girl), after their less-than-great first date. But as we are propelled forward into the future, we see the couple flourish – and fail – as they go through the emotional trials of love and marriage over a lifetime. It runs through Oct. 24.

8 p.m. (Wed.-Sat.), 7 p.m. (Sun.). $20. 5453 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (866) 468-3399.

Friday

The theatrical obsession with gravediggers shows up again in Art Shulman’s new play, “The Rabbi and the Gravedigger.” A “semisequel” to Shulman’s “The Rabbi and the Shiksa,” this one opens to find the rabbi laying to rest his non-Jewish love, Teresa. It plays at Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre through Dec. 11.

8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 2 p.m. (Sun.). $14-$16. 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 769-7529.

SPECTATORby Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer

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The roots of Broadway as we know it can be traced not to the streets of New York, but to the streets of Eastern Europe, where Jewish lyricists and composers like Irving Berlin (ne Izzy Ballin) took the music of their religion, added rich colorful lyrics and brought it to the masses.
Musicals took audiences away from sadness, depression and war, and transported them to a cornfield in Oklahoma, an opera house in Paris or the jungles of Africa.
“Musicals sell optimism,” said Mel Brooks, creator of the Tony Award-winning “The Producers.”
For three nights, beginning Oct. 19, theater lovers will have the chance to remember – and relive – 100 years of optimism with “Broadway: The American Musical,” hosted by Julie Andrews. The six-part PBS documentary tells the story of the place “where the American dream is realized eight times a week,” producer Michael Kantor said.
The series begins with the “Ziegfeld Follies” (and the comedy of Fanny Brice) and ends with a look at the opening night of Stephen Schwartz’s Tony Award-winning blockbuster, “Wicked.”
However, Broadway couldn’t escape from the real world completely. Some shows raised a few eyebrows for tackling some controversial topics such as domestic abuse in “Carousel,” homosexuality in “La Cage Aux Folles” and the AIDS epidemic in “Rent,” which hit close to home in the Broadway community after it lost many of its members to the disease.
After Sept. 11, when New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said “the show must go on,” the companies of every show on Broadway came together in Times Square to sing John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “New York, New York,” reminding the city that “it’s up to you, New York” – and that Broadway was ready and waiting.
In 100 years there will be new “Lullabies of Broadway,” but someone somewhere will be still humming “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.”

“Broadway: The American Musical” will air on PBS Oct. 19-21, 9 p.m. For more information on the show, visit