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November/December 2007

Message from the Director – November-December 2007

Holidays. Gifts. Families It’s the time of the holidays when loved ones come together to share memorable times.

In this season of gift giving, recently I was given three gifts that touched me deeply: a letter, an action and a comment.

Letter – from Paris

I receive beautiful letters from people who have read the book, seen my film or viewed my traveling photo exhibition. I feel so grateful for all of them, but recently a letter arrived from Paris that stood out for me – and not only because I had to dig deep in the recesses of my high school memory to translate it. Though Monsieur Luc has never met me, he took the time to tell me what happened when he wandered into a French bookstore and found my book on a table [Note: in addition to English versions of The Last Album, there exist also French and German editions, published by Autrements and Piper Verlag, respectively). Following is an excerpt of the letter from Paris:

I ought to tell you that I'm not a Jew. [In the bookstore, they had The Last Album]. I don’t know why, I decided to buy it. When I came to my home, I submerged myself in the album in emotions, in tears, in suffering – the love for all these people.

Well, for them and for me, I would like to thank you. Due to you, I have the impression yesterday of these people – their brothers, their sisters, their parents, their friends – have been alive, have been happy at the time of my reading.

I am not more than a drop of water in that human ocean but I want to save the memory of those people and not forget that one day in 2007, a book provoked my tears

In his letter, and in his words that followed (the complete letter can be read in the “Share your Thoughts” section), Luc is performing one of the most powerful acts possible, remembering the souls of the dead. As Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel has so often said, “To forget them is to kill them once again!”

I thank Luc, and all those who have written to me, for the gift of your words, the treasure of your thoughts, and the inspiration they have given me to continue.

Action – The Bar Mitzvah Mitzvah

Recently I was contacted by a young man, David Kimmel, age 13, who offered to help Eyes from the Ashes Educational Foundation, my 501(c)3 non-profit foundation, in association with his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. We worked together, found just the thing that would help most, and toward that end, David is donating both his actions and also a portion of his mitzvah money to the foundation.

As soon as possible, an excerpt of David’s Bar Mitzvah teaching will be added for you.

In the seventies and eighties, those involved with the Soviet Jewry
movement remember the way young Jews in the Soviet Union who
were unable to practice their Judaism were “twinned” with children
then becoming Bar – and Bat – Mitzvah. In a similar way, in this time
of fewer and fewer survivors, I am suggesting that we add a new
dimension to Bar and Bat Mitzvahs: the twinning of children from the
Holocaust, who never had a chance to live, with 13-year olds
currently becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. [Note: For children of other
faiths, on a personalized level, I will also develop other adaptations of
memory and meaning). Because the 1.5 million children killed in the
Holocaust never had a chance to mature, and grow, and take their place
as adult members of the community, in this ritual of remembering them
in a life-affirming and personalized way, they have a chance to
‘live’ once more.

The Comment – A Gift from the Heartland

I speak to many audiences, but none is more important to me than speaking to students.

Many experiences, many talks with students. One time in Indiana stands out:

I was speaking to hundreds of thirteen and fourteen year olds, telling stories about the people in The Last Album photos. It was a bad situation: It was the end of the school day; the kids were sitting in uncomfortable bleachers in the gym; the acoustics were bad, AND this school was near the headquarters of a national white supremacist group!

Yet when the dismissal bell rang, no one moved. The kids wanted to hear the end of the story – a real-life narrative. Imagine, stories from The Last Album kept them glued to their seats!

Afterward, a 13-year old boy told me, “I see lots of action heroes on TV, but nobody compares to Emmanuel. I wish I could be as brave as Emmanuel when I grow up!”

A 14-year old girl expressed her feelings this way, “You’ve touched a place in my heart that has never been touched before!”

The power of these photos, and the accompanying stories of the innocent people who carried them into Auschwitz, can pierce through the distance, the years, the hatred.

It is comments like these that fuel me, and compel me to continue this work.

As you share these holidays with your precious loved ones, as you create your own memories with your families and friends, perhaps these photos will inspire you—
to live more,
to give more,
to do more.

If you would like to help, please Click Here.

In their memory, try to make life better…for yourself, for those you love and for those who most need your help.

Warmest wishes to you all for a new year that brings you joy, that brings you love, that brings us all peace, Ann

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