By Lisa Shifren, Holocaust Survivor Specialist
On Sunday, November 11, our community will commemorate Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938).
Click. I started out as a photographer, and have always been fascinated by old photos and family histories. Along the way, about 12 years ago, I found myself volunteering in the Baltimore Jewish community, drawn to the Holocaust survivor population. What could I possibly do for this group of people who have experienced so much in their lifetimes? Now, through my work at Jewish Community Services, I help them navigate the process so they can receive benefits they are entitled to from Germany, and I help them preserve their independence and dignity with the assistance of JCS home health care and emergency assistance. Through the Holocaust survivors social club, we bring them a little fun every month.
I have worked with a lot of people of over the years, and Holocaust survivors are by far my favorites. There is something unique and special about this group of people. They are timeless treasures. Witnesses of history. Their stories are all different, but a common thread that these people share is a sense of gentleness. They don’t forget what happened, but their ability to move on with life, after surviving insurmountable persecution and loss, is amazing and has inspired me greatly. These humble men and women teach us to appreciate our families and our freedom, and not to take them for granted.
Not only have the survivors I’ve worked with welcomed me into their community and their homes, often acting as surrogate bubbies and zadies, but they’ve allowed me to photograph them, and to hear their stories firsthand. They have shared pictures of their families with me, old photos of themselves when they were young. If, like me, you’ve heard survivors speak about their experiences, you know that they often request that the audience remember their stories, tell them after they are gone, and learn from them.
This is what I can do for the survivors. Through my work at JCS, I can make life more comfortable for them as they age and need more services. I can tell and preserve their unique stories, through their portraits and their words. I can share their beauty, and their grace, and I can pass their wisdom on to you, so that we will remember them.
By Lisa Shifren, Holocaust Survivor Specialist, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
Lisa has facilitated the Baltimore Holocaust survivor social club since 2003 and has been photographing the Baltimore survivors since 2007 . She has created a body of work titled “Grace. Dignity. Humility. Compassion: The Holocaust Survivors of Baltimore,” which has been exhibited in galleries and schools. This exhibition contains portraits, biographies, and old photos of the survivors when they were young. To see these portraits up close, visit www.lisashifren.com
To learn more about how JCS can help you solve life’s puzzles please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.