Commemorating the forthcoming International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale has announced that the exhibit “Through the Eyes of Youth: Life and Death in the Będzin Ghetto,” produced at the Doris Martin-Springer Institute of Holocaust and Global Awareness located at The Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, will be traveling for the first time east of the Rockies, to be exhibited from Sunday, January 21, to Friday, January 26, at The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, located at 3700 Henry Hudson Pkwy, Bronx, NY 10463.
The opening will be on January 21 from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and will include a panel discussion with survivors Sam Bradin, Gela Majerczyk Buchbinder, Josef Guttman and Dasha Werdyger Rittenberg from the neighboring towns of Będzin and Dabrowa Gornicza. Jeffrey Cymbler, founder of the Będzin-Sosnowiec-Zawiercie Area Research Group, Będzin town leader for Jewish Records Poland, Inc., and author of the book, “The Cemetery of the Jewish Communities of Będzin and Cezladz, Poland,” will moderate.
The exhibit, sponsored in conjunction with the Martin-Springer Institute of Holocaust and Global Awareness, is a model for the educational potential of collaboration among graduate students, their professors and professionals in graphics and computer technology. Dr. Bjӧrn Krondorfer, director of the institute and Endowed Professor of Religious Studies at Northern Arizona University, will speak at the opening.
Through powerful imagery, quotes and narratives, the exhibit shares the struggles of the youth in Będzin who grew up amid tragedy while still trying to find small joys in life. The focus is on stories of the youth in hopes of resonating with a young audience in a meaningful way.
The exhibit is divided into four major time periods and follows seven young people from pre-war life to harsh living conditions in the ghetto and final deportation to Auschwitz. The exhibit ends with their lives after the Holocaust, in America and other locations.
The arrival of the exhibit culminates a year-long project titled “The Rutka’s Notebook Holocaust Continuity Project.” The project included a book group that met monthly to read the books written by members of the Będzin, Poland, community; a dramatic presentation of the book “Rutka’s Notebook” at the Interfaith Yom HaShoah Program co-sponsored by The Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College and Congregation Tehilla; and a program honoring Adam Szydlowski, founder of The Rutka Laskier Foundation for Jewish Culture, which included a workshop with seventh-grade students at Kinneret Day School on the discovery of Rutka’s Notebook, the diary of a young girl that was written while she was in the ghetto of Będzin and was only discovered in 2006 when it was given to Szydlowski by the girl’s friend, a gentile Polish woman, Stanislawa Spinska. The journal and its discovery were turned into a BBC documentary called “The Secret Diary of the Holocaust.” The film and discussion are available for viewing (see contact information below).
The project was started by retired teacher and longtime Riverdale resident Richard Feldman. Its mission was to create a community-wide conversation around the themes of racial hatred, discrimination and civil and human rights. It was motivated by Feldman’s search for the remnants of his mother’s family who were victims of the Holocaust—in fact, both the families of his maternal great-great-grandparents Chaim Ljab Szpigelman and Fajgla Szpringer are represented in the exhibit.
The program is sponsored in part by the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale—The Bayit, the Doris-Martin Springer Institute at Northern Arizona University, the Genocide Interfaith Education Center of Manhattan College, Healthy Communities at The Riverdale Senior Services, The Rutka’s Notebook Holocaust Education Continuity Project, the Będzin-Sosnowiec-Zawiercie Area Research Society and members of the Riverdale and Zaglebie (Zaglembie), Poland, communities.
Light refreshments will be served at the opening.