What is the Future of Memory?

By Dan Schifrin, Director of Public Programs and Writer in Residence

When Brenda Way, Artistic Director of the ODC Dance Company, spoke at the Museum in March about her new work “In the Memory of the Forest,” she was careful to note that the dance, based on an oral history of her Polish mother-in-law, was not created as a work “on the Holocaust.” Instead, the multi-media production, which explores Iza Ehrlich’s hiding in the forests outside of Warsaw during Word War II, was designed to explore the unique character of one brave and complex person, who was neither defined nor destroyed by the Holocaust.

The individuality of Iza Erlich’s narrative, along with Brenda Way’s unique ability to listen to it, suggest that the transmission of one person’s story to another is perhaps the most powerful and humane way of keeping alive not just the memory of one person, but a context to mourn those whose memories and stories were forever silenced in Auschwitz and Treblinka.

On Thursday, April 23, during the Museum’s commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah), the Contemporary Jewish Museum will host a discussion with survivor Perry Scheinock, and oral historians Susan Rothenberg and Anne Grenn Saldinger, to discuss what happens when fewer and fewer survivors are around to tell their stories. The conversation is presented in conjunction with StoryCorps and the Holocaust Center of Northern California.

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