Commemoration as a Tool for Remembrance and Education
By Cheryl Rattner Price, Executive Director & Co-Founder
The last few months have manifested an epic level of productivity for The Butterfly Project. Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Ha Shoah in Hebrew), which occured this year in April, has been a driving force in the activities over the past few months, and The Butterfly Project was involved in commemoration ceremonies all across the country. Our film NOT The Last Butterfly was often included in the events to raise awareness of the dangers of hatred and bigotry in the world.
As this article in the New York Times shows, there is a concerning lack of knowledge and awareness about the Holocaust in today’s youth. The timing of these commemorations is critical, as we take note of the painful and troubling increase in racism and bigotry that is plaguing our nation. We are so proud of our expanding community of teachers, volunteers and champions of The Butterfly project, many of whom are 2nd and 3rd Generations of Holocaust Survivors, who are working tirelessly to make sure that the world never forgets.
The timing of these commemorations is also critical, as several members of our beloved Holocaust Survivor community have died.
In just the last few months we lost Agathe Ehrenfried z”l (mother of Judi Gottschalk) and Gussie Zaks z”l (mother of Jack Morgenstern and Marcia Rosenberg). In addition, I shared this on our Facebook Page about Ela Weissberger z”l:
My heart aches. It is with deep sorrow that I share the news that Ela Weissberger z”l passed away on the first night of Passover, Friday March 30th. She was surrounded by her beloved family.
Anyone who was lucky enough to be swept into in the magnetic and loving pull of the one and only Ela was forever changed for the better. Not a cliché… Ela spent her lifetime sharing her story of survival and giving love and encouragement to others especially in order to further Holocaust education, art, music and of course, children. She adored the young ones she met and was thrilled that the love was mutual. Ela was a living legend for countless thousands of children in her decades of speaking to schools and community events about being a child prisoner of Terezin Concentration Camp. Ela was proud that as a child in Terezin she was casted as the cat in the children’s opera Brundibar and throughout her life she traveled the globe to join the children’s cast on stage to sing the final victory song. In the last 2 years, Ela even journeyed to Uruguay and Russia!
We are so blessed that Ela loved The Butterfly Project so much that we were able to bring her to San Diego and journey with her and her loving daughter Tammy back to Terezin in 2015 highlighting her in our film NOT The Last Butterfly.
It was here and in Prague that we witnessed her pay tribute to her beloved teacher Friedl Dicker Brandeis, and met some of her dearest friends. Laughing and feeling loved was easy when you were around someone as playful as Ela. She had a heart of gold but was no pushover! It has been an epic journey and I feel so personally privileged to have spent such quality time dreaming big dreams together about art and butterflies. Ela will live forever in every butterfly painted and in the hearts of all she met. My heart is heavy. We need to carry on her message of hope. May her memory be a blessing. Deepest condolences to her daughter Tamar Grinshpon and family.
Passing the Torch
We are in the process of creating educational chapters to accompany our film, one of which is appropriately entitled “Passing the Torch” We interviewed our amazing Education Team (Jan Landau, Arlene Keeyes, Sonia Fox-Ohlbaum, and Judi Gottschalk), and Tamar (Ela’s daughter). Our objective is to assist educators and 2nd/3rd Generations to keep sharing the stories of their beloved family members to students, be a resource to help make the Holocaust more understood through these personal stories of survival, and to keep these stories alive in history.
Below are some of the wonderful communities that included The Butterfly Project in their Yom HaShoah commemoration events.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (Simi Valley, CA)
In January, The Butterfly Project partnered with Facing History and Ourselves to present a training at Reagan Library for 33 local educators. In April, 600+ students from those 33 teachers came together to paint butterflies after hearing Holocaust Survivor James Bachner’s story. The butterflies currently have a temporary home in this beautiful installation at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, designed by the Youth Council of Simi Valley. And next, there will be butterfly installation memorials in LA and Simi Valley from the painted butterflies! Thank you to Rebekah Harding, Jeff Lockwood and Whitney Pagan of the Reagan Library, and Kristin Tignac of the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center and the Youth Council of Simi Valley.
Valley Outreach Synagogue (Calabasas, CA)
Julie Goren has been a dedicated partner to The Butterfly Project for quite some time, bringing our film and programming to Valley Outreach Synagogue and creating this beautiful mural. She also has volunteers come to her home monthly to help The Butterfly Project assemble kits to go into classrooms across the country. Julie has dedicated countless hours and created a strong band of volunteers. Thank you to Carla Adivi, Education Director and Rabbi Ron Li-Paz for their support of this initiative.
Shames JCC on the Hudson (Tarrytown, NY) & JCC of Mid-Westchester (Scarsdale, NY)
We would like to extend a special thanks to Maida Silver, Westchester Director
UJA-Federation’s Engage Jewish Service Corps, whose hard work, dedication, and vision helped make this event an engaging and powerful experience for the Shamess JCC and JCC of Mid-Westchester communities. We would also like to thank the following people for all of their help and support: Karen Kolodny, Executive Director, JCC of Mid-Westchester; Susan Groner, Assistant to Executive Director and Director Program Operations, JCC of Mid-Westchester; Jill Gold. Engage Site Coordinator, JCC of Mid-Westchester; Millie Jasper, Executive Director, Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center; Andrew Ergas, Executive Director, Shames JCC on the Hudson; Jen Labovitz, Director of Marketing & Communications, Shames JCC on the Hudson, Melissa Baer, Engage Site Coordinator, Shames JCC on the Hudson.
Tifereth Israel Synagogue (San Diego, CA)
Tifereth Israel hosted a film screening and butterfly painting event for Yom Hashoah. There was incredible sisterhood at Tifereth Israel, and so many others raising the bar on meaningful events with The Butterfly Project. A special thank you to: Jan Landau, Arlene Cymberg Keeyes, Judy Stern, Michelle Barbour, Beth Klareich, Pam Stern, Olga Worm, Roxanne Schindler Katz, Marlene Sasson Recht, Jack Morgenstern, and so many others who worked tirelessly to make this day a success! Thank you go Judi Ehrenfried Gottschalk for her generous underwriting of the film screening.
After this morning we had our San Diego Yom Ha Shoah commemoration and had a chance to honor and get a group photo of our beloved Survivors.
Temple Solel (Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA)
A meaningful event at Temple Solel, with two film screenings and butterfly painting after the students had their lessons. Fantastic and insightful questions from students and adults during the Q & A. They are adding these butterflies to their current installation! Thank you to Ellen Fox and Debby Cooperman Stone for all of your hard work and dedication.
Touro College (Brooklyn, NY)
Dr. Shoshanah Findling brought The Butterfly Project and NOT The Last Butterfly to Touro College Graduate School of Education. Over 140 educators and educators-in-training were in attendance.
March of the Living (Poland)
Thank you to Marcia Tatz Wolner for involving The Butterfly Project with this year’s March of the Living. Students from San Diego and the Western US Region, along with students from South Africa, painted butterflies in Krakow and Warsaw. Butterflies were given to JCC Krakow and POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw. More than 14,000 people attended the March of the Living this year.
Israeli Scouts (Tzofim) (Sunnyvale, CA, San Diego, CA, Las Vegas, NV, Phoenix, AZ)
So proud of May Dror, Shaliach of Shevet Pisga in Las Vegas and everyone who helped the Israeli Scouts! Look at these focused and dedicated young people, learning and creating such beauty to memorialize the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust! Kol Ha Kavod! We are also honored that other Israeli Scouts Groups participated this year, including Shevet Hamifratz (led by Noy Finanser) in Sunnyvale, CA, who did lessons and butterfly painting with 5th grade as part of Good Deeds Day; Shevet Shemesh (led by Hadar Hamu) in Phoenix, AZ, who hosted a butterfly painting event for 3rd-12 grades; and Shevet Galim (led by Danni Berenholtz) in San Diego, CA.