Yad Vashem exhibit focuses on survivors' contribution to state

"My Homeland: Holocaust Survivors in Israel," represents effort to change way survivors are seen here.

Yad Vashem 88 (photo credit: )
Yad Vashem 88
(photo credit: )
Seeking to refocus the image of Holocaust survivors, Yad Vashem will open an exhibition Monday on their contribution to the state since its establishment six decades ago. The exhibition, titled "My Homeland: Holocaust Survivors in Israel," represents an effort to change the way survivors are seen here. "The image of Holocaust survivors in Israel as poor and neglected is not reflective of the majority of Holocaust survivors, who became a true part of the fabric of Israel," said exhibition curator Yehudit Shendar, the deputy director of Yad Vashem's Museums Division. Shendar said the recent media focus on impoverished Holocaust survivors was "not reflective" of the majority of survivors in the country, since the statistics were heavily and unduly influenced by the wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union in the '90s, many of whom were also categorized as Holocaust survivors. "The exhibition is an anti-thesis to the media image of Holocaust survivors in Israel," she said. About 250,000 Holocaust survivors live in the country, nearly one-third in poverty. The exhibition, which will run for one year, focuses on the contribution of 91 survivors to the state in art, culture, design and filmmaking. About half of those featured in the exhibition have passed away. Among the survivors whose stories are highlighted in the exhibit is Hungarian-born Lea Gottlieb, 90, who co-founded the Gottex swimwear company (after quickly realizing that the Israeli climate was not conducive to the raincoat business she had in Europe after the war); Austrian-born Shemuel (Alexander) Katz, 81, an artist who was among the founders of Kibbutz Ga'aton who was awarded the first annual Golden Pencil Lifetime Achievement Award last year by the Israeli Cartoon Museum; and Budapest-born Kariel Gardosh, or Dosh, an award-winning graphic artist and caricaturist whose character "Srulik", in his sandals, shorts and signature hat, became the quintessential symbol of the young nation for over half a century; he passed away in 2000. "We are celebrating 60 years of the State of Israel, where survivors are an integral part of the society," Shendar said. "I fought to burn any connection to the Shoah, and I wanted to banish and forget all the memories of the Shoah," said Katz, who immigrated to Israel at age 20, but who said he always felt that his life began in the country. "Since the establishment of the state, I accompanied the history of the state with my work and took part in the molding of the country," he said. With most of the survivors in their 70s and 80s, Israel's 60th anniversary was "the most appropriate time" to highlight their achievements, Shendar said. "This is the happiest exhibition that was ever done at Yad Vashem," she said.