“The Art and Life of David Labkovski” exhibit on display at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust through June 14 doesn’t just depict Jewish life in Europe before, during and after World War II. It preserves a unique perspective for new generations. And it took multiple generations to make the exhibit happen.
Leora Raikin, an artist and lecturer on African folklore embroidery, had a collection of her great uncle David Labkovski’s drawings and sketches tracing his life in his native Lithuania before the war, eight years in a Siberian prison camp during the Holocaust and life after the war in Lithuania and Israel. The moving collection, however, was sitting in boxes in her parents’ house. Raikin wanted the art to be seen – especially by the younger generation who only know the Holocaust from history books. But how?
The answer was waiting for her at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, among the mothers of her son’s classmates. Lisa Lainer-Fagan, a genealogist who lectures about her family’s tragic loss in Lithuania during WWII, connected Raikin with Connie Marco, the daughter of Holocaust survivors and a passionate volunteer at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.
“The three of us took this on not knowing what would happen,” says Lainer-Fagan. “Art is a powerful way to connect to history and start a conversation about not only the past, but also about appreciating our freedom.”
These three moms’ efforts brought the artwork to the museum, and also mobilized students at the high school. Batya Moskowitz, Natalie Yakobian, Shirelle Mizrahi, Sam Jamieson and Joshua Raikin worked under the guidance of NCJHS Artistic Director Benny Ferdman and NCJHS art instructor Justine Trueger Brouner to co-curate the exhibit and write poetry to complement the artwork. Another student, Tali Chais, sang a song in Yiddish about Vilna at the exhibit opening.
Students Benjamin Glaser and Itai Lev worked with film studies teacher Gregory Keer and media arts director Roger Blonder to produce a short documentary film, “The Art and Life of David Labkovski,” which was screened at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival in May.
“All the students who worked on this project gave up their weekends and after-school time,” says Keer. “It was a pleasure to see their commitment to making this happen.”
This project is not just about the Holocaust, according to Marco. “It’s about the richness of Jewish life, survival, and most importantly, the message of tolerance and acceptance,” she says. “We want to educate our children to never stand idly by when they see anyone being mistreated.”
“I wish I could adequately express the urgency I feel for educating this generation about the Holocaust,” says Raikin, who is now working on a book chronicling her uncle and aunt’s story. “I want this generation to be engaged and responsible for becoming the future educators of the story.”
The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is located at 100 S. The Grove Drive, L.A. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.lamoth.org.