Austin Community Remembers the Holocaust at Moving Multimedia Commemorative Event
By Wendy Goodman
On April 8, a record-breaking 500+ members and visitors commemorated Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, at the Shalom Austin Jewish Community Center. Local leader and active community member Dr. Philip Klein prepared and directed a special multimedia presentation on the history of the conditions leading up to the Holocaust, how this terrible unimaginable tragedy could have occurred, and the aftermath of rebuilding a Jewish community devastated by the loss of six million people.
The program, entitled Journey Through the Holocaust, featured a documentary film written and produced by Dr. Klein with rare archival footage and images of the war. Live music combined with narration from professional voice-over artists Dianna Dorman and Bill Karnovsky took the audience on an emotional and intimate trip through the events and personal stories of World War II and the Holocaust. Reenactments and stage representations added to the unique mixed theatrical experience.
The themes of the evening paid tribute to the way people lived, their struggle, and their life before and during the war. The audience could personally connect to the stories in their own way, whether through the music, narrators, stage performances or the film.
Holocaust survivors Steffi Bierig and Erica Miller attended and were honored for their heroism and strength. Second generation survivor and Chabad at UT Executive Director Rabbi Zev Johnson was also in attendance and recognized that evening.
Audience members had the opportunity to view a rare recovered suitcase from the Holocaust on loan from the Gregg and Michelle Philipson Collection and Archive.
The evening concluded with an emotional recitation of El Maleh Rachamim led by Congregation Agudas Achim Rabbi Neil Blumofe as the audience raised their electronic candles in remembrance.
Directed by Susan Klein, the musical quartet comprised of Audrey Menkes on piano, Peter Stone on violin, Dan Radin on cello and Susan Klein on clarinet. Eric Klein managed the technical and software production, Alison Klein helped coordinate the event set-up, Ella Tran was photo editor and video co-editor with Dr. Klein, and Jeff Miller and James Jennings provided audiovisual.
“I hope this is not the last time this program is shown. My goal is to work with organizations and other non-profits to utilize and present the program themselves, to see how this can be packaged for synagogues, schools, churches and others,” said Dr. Klein.
UT President Greg Fenves Honored with Prestigious Award for Holocaust Speech
Vital Speeches of the Day recently announced University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves as winner of the 2018 Grand Cicero Speechwriting Award for an inspiring speech he gave entitled “The Power of a Story.” The speech was written by Matthew Kivel and delivered by Fenves as acceptance for the Guardian of the Human Spirit Award by the Holocaust Museum Houston in 2017. In his speech, Fenves shared his father’s story of the Holocaust, escaping Auschwitz, and the courage, luck and strength that led to his survival and building a life in the U.S. “In 1944, my dad and his family were loaded onto a transport train—a train car built to hold freight—that was packed with hundreds of people. They did not know where they were going. There was no food or water. The train just kept moving. My dad was 13 years old,” Fenves described in his speech.