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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Witness Theater 2015 - Yom Hashoah 5775

To commemorate Yom Hashoah, Yeshivah of Flatbush in conjunction with SelfHelp celebrated the resilience of the human spirit through a special presentation of Witness Theater. This was the culmination of months of heartfelt collaboration between our high school students and Holocaust survivors. Over the past eight month a group of high school seniors have been meeting with nine holocaust survivors in a program that they will never forget.
On April 15th and 16th the students were able to showcase the bonds they'd built with these adults in an outstanding production, directed by Mrs. Sally Shatzkes and musically directed by Mr. Brian Gelfand. These seniors were able to step into the shoes of these survivors and tell their stories in a way that they've never been told before. And while the performance was a smashing success it was bittersweet as well. The students connected with these adults in such a way that they didn't want the program to end. But Witness Theater didn't just effect these students but also the entire audience who bore witness to these stories and testimonies and were deeply touched by all they saw and heard. The importance of telling your story has become something vital to this story because when you have someone to listen then you are liberated to tell.

Survivors, Shapes, and Stories
By: Merle Cohen, Class of 2015

On Wednesday evenings we sit in circles.
On Wednesday evenings we talk in squares.
On Wednesday evenings we listen to triangles of family. Of the would be mother, father, daughter. Of the once upon a yesteryear silhouette of a family shuffling among the silhouettes of identical families. Because on Wednesday evenings we learn that a Jew is a Jew is a Jew and when push comes to shove the second your hair is shaved from your head your shape becomes the shape of a thousand others packed into the same sardine can.

On Wednesday evenings we learn of small box windows shoved into corners of big box cars.
On Wednesday evenings we follow the arrows of a thousand stalks of hay that hid your circle eyes from the black shadow boots.
On Wednesday evenings we pin stars to our coats and trace the numbers curved across soft skin.

When I think of the shapes of Witness Theater I envision Simon’s Tzahal cap and Edith’s pink sneakers. I see Sofiya’s sprightly manner and Judith’s winter hat. I smell the coffee I make for Harry during dinner and feel the soft skin of Lola’s hand as I slip mine into hers. Come Wednesday evening I imagine the glint of Ruth’s rings, taste Blanka’s baking and embrace Golda’s soft musical notes. By now the jigsaw of our shapes fits ever so nicely, our fingers intertwining ever so precisely that it’s no wonder to me how the shapes of Witness Theater have become ever so important.