A significant community-wide effort leading up to Yom Hashoah on April 12 is taking shape across the Valley in order to educate and raise awareness about the Holocaust.
The Phoenix Holocaust Survivors’ Association, Generations After and several other Phoenix-area community groups are working with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., on a variety of community-outreach programs.
The activities will be highlighted by concert pianist Mona Golabek’s live performance of her book “The Children of Willesden Lane” on April 4 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
It is the poignant story of her mother Lisa Jura’s escape from Nazi-controlled Austria on the Kindertransport, her courageous journey at 14 without her family, her new life at the Willesden Lane Orphanage in England and her dreams of becoming a pianist.
The event marks the community start of Genocide Awareness Week, the annual conference organized by John Liffiton at Scottsdale Community College, which runs from April 9 to 14.
Preparations for this year’s Yom Hashoah began in October, when more than 70 teachers from schools throughout the Valley attended “Teaching About the Holocaust,” a teacher-training workshop held at Scottsdale Community College. The day provided middle and high school teachers with resources and strategies to effectively teach about the Kindertransport and Holocaust history, with a special focus on “The Children of Willesden Lane.”
More than 3,000 copies of Golabek’s
books were donated to Arizona schools by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the family of Birgit and Inge Blumenthal for students to participate in the “Willesden Read.”
The Jewish Community Foundation provided a grant to help bring Golabek to Arizona. In addition to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, she’ll perform in high school auditoriums.
“This program will go beyond standard Holocaust programs by introducing the theme of performing arts as a vehicle for survival and the transmission of the hopes and dreams of one Viennese family to future generations,” said Sheryl Bronkesh, chair of Generations After. “This program will facilitate education and remembrance of the Holocaust.”
Golabeck tells her mother’s story through music and images of historic and personal family photos projected on a screen. Her grand piano is her co-star.
“Mona Golabek’s ability to tell her mother’s story in such a vivid and emotional way demonstrates another important aspect of Holocaust education and its universal themes,” said Carol Stulberg, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s western regional senior adviser for leadership giving.
Stulberg pointed out that “the museum’s work with the ‘Willesden Read’ program and the live performance are important initiatives for student learning and the museum’s efforts to provide the highest quality of education resources to the residents in the greater Phoenix area.”
For her part, Golabek said her show is captivating to both younger and older audiences.
“My mother’s story speaks to all religions, as it is the story of people caring for other people,” she said. “It also speaks to young people from all walks of life as it encourages them to hold onto something dear to them to give them strength even during difficult times.” JN
Tickets for Mona Golabek’s performance can be purchased at bit.ly/2FULXWi or by calling 480-499-8587. Kathy Shayna Shocket, a former TV entertainment reporter, is a freelance writer based in Phoenix.