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Monday, April 8, 2013

Israeli Witness Theater comes to NY

Witness Holocaust

Project that brings Shoah survivors, Jewish high school students together on stage had its American debut on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day

An Israeli theater project that brings Holocaust survivors and Jewish high school students together on stage will have its American debut on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day with local Shoah survivors and students from New York.
The Israeli Witness Theater project was brought to the United States for the first time by the UJA- Federation of New York, which sponsors the project in Israel together with JDC- Eshel. The program works in conjunction with Selfhelp Community Services.
As part of the program, Holocaust survivors from around New York have been working on the show with Jewish students, ages 17 and 18, from the Yeshiva of Flatbush, Joel Braverman High School in Brooklyn over the course of the past year.
The first show will be taking place on Sunday, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.
The Witness Theater Program is an innovative and emotional intergenerational “journey” for Holocaust survivors and high school students. Working together, the two generations elicit and expose the moving stories of survival and explore issues of war, loss and trauma.
The survivors are the narrators, and students work with them to draw out their stories and to enact their wartime experiences.
The concept for the program was developed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s division for the elderly in Israel (JDC-Eshel), supported by UJA-Federation of New York, and is currently operating in many cities across Israel.
Selfhelp Community Services, Inc. (Selfhelp), the largest provider of services to Nazi victims in North America, is implementing this powerful and moving program in the United States.
Selfhelp is working in partnership with the Yeshiva of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School. Thirteen students and ten Holocaust survivors are participating this year. The students were recruited from the senior class at Yeshiva of Flatbush and the Holocaust survivors are connected with Selfhelp’s Brooklyn programs.
The Yeshiva of Flatbush’s partnership with Selfhelp and Witness Theater is an outgrowth of its well established commitment to Holocaust Studies that is integrated into the yeshiva’s curriculum at every grade level.
Beginning in September 2012, students and survivors have been meeting weekly over the course of the academic year with a trained drama therapist, theater director and social worker. The project will culminate in the production of staged performances, with the student actors portraying the personal stories of the survivors in their group.
These moving accounts highlight the memories, pain and survival of the Holocaust through the eyes, ears and speech of youth. The program aims to involve Holocaust survivors in a therapeutic process designed to help them come to terms with their past, and to instill the memory of the Holocaust in the next generation. The performances serve as a vehicle for the survivors’ testimony to be heard by many and to witness the special connections made between the generations.
There will be two performances of Witness Theater: On Sunday at 7 pm, and on Monday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, at 10 am. The performances will be held at the Yeshiva of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School in Brooklyn.
Selfhelp plans to continue this project for a second year in New York, beginning in fall 2013.