This is a story that will bring tears to your eyes. It’s about Huntington High School sophomore Lilly Joseph, who learned about the indescribable horrors of the Holocaust from those who lived through it as well as incredible stories of courage and survival. The teenager participated in the UJA-Federation’s Project Witness and she’ll never be the same.
Hosted by the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in Greenvale, the program paired three dozen high school students with 11 Holocaust survivors.
Huntington High School sophomore Lilly Joseph.
“Every other Thursday, a group of Long Island high school students and I came together to meet with Holocaust survivors,” Ms. Joseph said. “We would meet from 6-8 p.m. We would have dinner with the survivors, do group activities and listen to one of the survivor’s stories. Each survivor got to share their story and basically had the whole night to tell it. Towards the end of the project we had a choice of working on an art project representing what we learned or being in a play that was dedicated to the survivors and told the story of their lives. I did my project on each one of the survivors. I decided to make a photo book.”
The survivors shared powerful memories of one of the darkest periods in the history of the world. The Holocaust was the systematic state sanctioned persecution and ultimate murder of two-thirds of the entire Jewish population of Europe by Germany’s Nazi regime and those who collaborated with it.
“I really enjoyed taking Into to Photography this year with Mrs. [Pamela] Piffard and knew it was something I wanted to use in my project,” Ms. Joseph said. “I took pictures of each of the survivors and put quotes from other famous survivors and authors that lived during the Holocaust. I decided to do a photo book because they say a picture speaks a thousand words. Yet a portrait leaves much to the imagination of the viewer; to interpret the look of and feel of the person, to imagine who they are and what they are about.”
The survivors who participated in the project include Sabine Breier, Rachel Epstein, Charlotte Gillman, Ruth Mermelstein, Werner Reich, Eddie Rosenblum, Cecile Ruppert, René Slotkin, Doris Usherovitz, Meir Usherovitz and Anita Weisbord.
“My project was to take portrait photographs of each of our precious Holocaust survivors to memorialize in a book their beautiful simplicity as regular and everyday people and offering no visual clues of the incredible lives they have led,” Ms. Joseph said. “Unlike a regular portrait, when we view each survivor’s photograph in my book we hear the voice of each survivor narrating over countless words of their incredible life story. To hold true to our goal in Project Witness and to underscore the mantra ‘never forget,’ a thought provoking statement accompanies each portrait to start the conversation while at the same time paying tribute to the survival, heroism and Jewish leadership of each survivor.”
Ms. Joseph displayed her photo book and discussed it during a reception for this year’s Witness Project participants at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts. Members of the group were eager to share their art and multi-media presentations, which honored the 11 brave Holocaust survivors.