SPOTS OF LIGHT:
TO BE A WOMAN IN THE HOLOCAUST
OPENING FEBRUARY 2020
The Holocaust was an historical event of orchestrated acts of brutality and murder by the Nazis and their accomplices against the Jewish people. In this exhibition, we attempt to reveal the human story and create a space for the unique voice of the women among them, and to emphasize the responses and actions of Jewish women to the situations they faced.
Before the Second World War, Jewish women – like most of their counterparts – inhabited a society that was largely conservative and patriarchal. Accordingly, most women did not take part in the leadership that was tasked with administering the Jewish community during the Holocaust. Instead, Jewish women assumed the main familial role involving the “affirmation of life” – survival under any circumstance.
During the initial phases of the war, large numbers of Jewish men were mobilized for forced labor or escaped to the east. In the later stages, men tried to flee to the forests and many others were executed. As a result, countless women remained alone with children and the elderly. Overall, they often constituted the greater part of the ghetto population in subsequent stages. Even when the men remained, their inability to continue serving as the breadwinners of the family often left them psychologically shattered and impaired their traditional role as heads of household. As a result, women often assumed the duties of obtaining food for their families, trying to provide a minimum level of family functioning despite their grim situation.
The identification of women with children, both by the surroundings and by the women themselves, became a motivating force for clinging to life, but also bound them to extermination together.
Women who survived the annihilation campaign and became part of the Nazis’ slave-labor force entered the world of the camps. There, usually in women-only camps, they attempted to rehabilitate their psychological identities after having been deprived of their individuality, families and cultural traditions.
Women in the Holocaust applied their minds to a place that deprived them of their minds; and brought strength to a place where they were denied their strength. In a place where the very right to live was wrested from women and their families, faced their deaths with fortitude and invested every additional moment of life with meaning. It is these women’s voices that we wish to sound and whose stories we wish to tell.
A JFCS & Bolles School Partnership
Remarkable things can happen when young people from very different lived experiences share space together with the intention of building authentic connection.
12 teens, half are in the Child Welfare System and half attend the Bolles School. The differences and divides seem extreme…economics, race, family, geography, societal expectations. But through art, history, conversation, and human touch threads of understanding began to bind them/us.
“My vision for creating a Holocaust Memorial comes from the love and dedication I feel for the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust who have no resting place. A monument made from stone symbolizes the strength we have as a community to never forget them and to teach our future generations how important our history is. We must never forget.” Morris Bendit