At student event, survivor’s legacy is set in stone
Bea Glotzer, a Livingston resident who survived the Holocaust by being shipped off to a slave labor camp in Siberia, thrust her hands into a square slab of concrete, leaving an imprint for future generations.
The concrete panel will be housed at the Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany, where Glotzer spoke to participants of the Rubell Student Seminar on May 24.
“This is a very big honor to me,” Glotzer, who was born in Jaroslaw, Poland, in 1928, told NJJN. “I want the people who see my handprints years from now to remember there were Holocaust survivors. We don’t want our past should become their future.”
Glotzer was to have been one of 20 survivors to have left their handprints, but humid weather prevented 19 other panels from jelling sufficiently. The other survivors who came to the campus will return to complete the work, which will be made available on loan to schools and other institutions in the MetroWest community.
The project was financed by Michael Rubell, a Morristown business consultant who sponsors bus trips from New Jersey schools to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Helping him was a friend, Jon Parker, who doubles as a stonemason and a corrections officer in Maine.
“Students love to hover around survivors and actually touch them, but at some point in the future there won’t be survivors for students to meet and actually touch,” Rubell told NJJN. “Jon came up with the idea of taking the handprints of survivors. This way a student could always put their hand in the hand of a survivor, and people can never say there was no Holocaust.”
The schools present for the follow-up day of learning and leadership training were the Robert Treat Academy in Newark, Dickinson High School in Jersey City, Washington Middle School in Harrison, and Mount Saint Dominic Academy in Caldwell.
‘Make a huge change’
Some 160 students who had traveled to Washington on the Rubell journey conversed with survivors at tables in the conference center.
Sonia Simchowitz of Livingston, who was born in Poland and survived in Siberia, is among those scheduled to leave her handprints. “Some day people will look and say, ‘This is the hand of a survivor and I know their stories and it is my duty to continue telling them,’” she said.
Terry Izraeli of West Caldwell waited in line behind Simchowitz. During the war, she and her family were able to hide in their native Brussels after the Nazis invaded Belgium. “I do this so that people won’t forget what happened to us,” she said. “It was a horrible time.”
Earlier in the daylong program sponsored by the Holocaust Council of MetroWest and the Morris Rubell Holocaust Remembrance Journeys — named for Rubell’s late father, a survivor — the audience watched a 20-minute excerpt from Windows, a play about a local survivor.
Written by Montclair resident Melissa Schaffer, it won first prize in the Jewish Plays Project sponsored by the council, with funds from Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest and the Darivoff Family Foundation.
Participants also watched a brief video made by Adam Williams, an Englishman who began a program called “Kippot for Hope.” It enabled Jews in Uganda to manufacture and sell colorful yarmulkas to assist their impoverished villages.
“There are two primary messages,” said Rubell. “One is that one person — anybody, regardless of religion — can make a huge change for other people. The second is we wanted to show that often people who are not part of Jewish community have a lot of misconceptions about Jews — that they are all wealthy, they are all white, they all live in urban centers. But here is an impoverished community people just don’t know about.
“We are hoping to get people to examine their beliefs. They may say, ‘Wow, I’m not biased but maybe I have some preconceived notions that I need to look at myself.’”