Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA – March 12, 2019

by George J Elbaum

This is the third year of The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) program of student tours organized around a current exhibit and paired with talks by Holocaust survivors arranged by the Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS).  These talks offer the students a unique opportunity to connect art, architecture, and history, to humanize historical events and cultivate empathy and to strengthen links between past and present, and it is the 5th time that I have spoken as part of this program.

The CJM current tour and talk, Resilience, Holocaust, and the Architecture of Life, asks the question: “How do we move forward from the past while vowing to never forget?”  The architecture of The CJM is a testament to history and resilience: it is a celebration of life and strength designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, a child of Holocaust survivors, with deeply embedded Jewish symbolism and meaning.  A first-hand testimony by a Holocaust survivor (me on this day) is at the heart of this 2 ½ hour Museum experience, which includes an exploration of the symbolism of The CJM’s architecture through the lens of resilience and artistic reflection as well as a gallery experience and an art workshop.

Today’s participants were 10th grade students from the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, CA, led by teacher Ekta Shah.  Before my talk, The CJM’s educators led the students on an exploration of the new exhibition Show Me as I Want to Be Seen focusing on the photos of Holocaust resistance fighters Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore. Today’s event was organized by Cara Buchalter, CJM School Programs Manager, who, prior to introducing me, engaged the students in an excellent dialogue on the meaning of social resistance and encouraged them to speak up and resist when faced with prejudice and injustice in our society.  Luz Brown, CJM Technician, managed the audio-visuals of my presentation including 2 recalcitrant projection screens 😊 and took all the photos (below).  My participation was arranged last December by JFCS’s Program Coordinator, Adrian Schrek and Penny Savryn.  Attending also were Lisa Rosenberg, Ron Glait, Tamara Suarez-Porras, and Suzanne Reich—CJM Educators, plus Quarry Lane teachers Lance Miller, Ron Bialkowski and Marcelo Aranda.

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