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Federation Helps Keep Holocaust Survivors’ Stories Alive

Holocaust survivors are bringing their powerful stories to the stage, thanks to a collaboration between Federation and our historic overseas partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Witness Theater, a JDC program that began in Israel 10 years ago to address the needs of Israeli Holocaust survivors, recently expanded to the former Soviet Union (FSU), and in several cities across the US. Currently, nearly 40 people — from teenagers to the elderly — are participating in Ukraine’s Witness Theater, attending weekly meetings over the course of a year at several JDC-created Hesed social welfare centers. Psychologists are involved in this project, helping participants cope with feelings that will likely arise when seeing their personal accounts of the Holocaust acted out on stage.

Witness Theater is part of JDC’s ESHEL partnership with the Government of Israel, which focuses on addressing the needs of Israel’s senior citizens. Throughout its successful decade in Israel, the Witness Theater program occurred more than 70 times. Each year, an additional 10 programs are added. The program culminates in the production of a semi-professional public performance by both the survivors and teenagers, who dramatize, the survivors’ stories. The debut performance is scheduled for January 27, 2019.

While Witness Theatre enriches the lives of Holocaust survivors by giving them a platform to share their heart-wrenching stories, the program also creates intimate, lifelong relationships between young and older generations across the globe. “Those who remain after us should remember, and should know how all this happened. They should know that millions of people didn’t die in vain…It is so touching that we will be heard, that there is an opportunity to share what we have kept to ourselves,” said Neonila and Svetlana Koritskaya, both Holocaust survivors living Ukraine. “We want to believe that these drops of truth will help change the world for our children and grandchildren, who still have to go their own way.”

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