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May 15, 1987 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-05-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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64

Friday, May 15, 1987

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Hannah Senesh

Continued from preceding page

6089. Co-chairmen are
Franklin Ellias and Harry
Eisenberg.
"This is a good play for young
people ages 12 and older. They
would be very inspired by
Hannah's story," added
Kirsch, who teaches fifth grade
in the Centerline School Dis-
trict. He is a former psychology
teacher who taught the
Holocaust to his high school
classes. He is not a child of a
Holocaust survivor.
Hannah Senesh was 23
years old when she was shot to
death by the Germans. Before
that day in 1944, however, she
had left her mark on hundreds
of people who knew her as a
charismatic woman who was a
Zionist, a poet and a highly
idealistic Jew.
She was 18 in 1939 when she
left her mother in Budapest
and her brother in France and
moved to pre-state Israel. After
learning about the anti-Jewish
uprisings in Europe, she vol-
unteered to join the British Air
Corps as a paratrooper in a re-
scue mission to find downed
British flyers in order to sneak
into Hungary. It was her intent
to try to warn Jews in her na-
tive country of the dangers fac-
ing them. She crossed the
Hungarian border, was cap-
tured, imprisoned and exe-
cuted shortly before the Ger-
mans were driven out of Hun-
gary in 1944.
Today Hannah Senesh is a
heroine throughout Israel. Her
poetry is known by young and
old. It is no wonder when she
wrote lines such as these:
"There are stars whose
radiance is visible on earth
though they have long been ex-
tinct. There are people whose
brilliance continues to light
the world though they are no
longer among the living. These
lights are particularly bright
when the night is dark. They
light the way for humankind."
Little did Hannah know she
was writing about herself.
There are many books in -
print about Hannah; one is her
own diary. It is titled Hannah
Senesh: Her Life and Diary. It
is this same diary on which
David Schecter based his play
about Hannah.
The play has a very interest-
ing history, according to one of
the play's producer's, Perry
Bruskin of New York.
"We at Century Productions
are a regular commercial
theatrical production com-
pany. We knew some writers
who bugged us to come and see
this new play at The Writers
Theater. Bill Ross (producer)
and I went individually and we
both thought Hannah Senesh
was a gem of a play.
"What makes it so is the un-
usual way in which it tells the
story," continued Bruskin. "It's
a one-woman show based on
the memoirs of a young female
poet who also was a fighter. It
offers a different dimension to

the Holocaust stories, because
Hannah was not a survivor or a
victim, really, but a freedom
fighter. Her story is exhilarat-
ing, not sad."
The play about Hannah has
clocked many miles since it left
Broadway. It now has touring
companies and has been held
over three times since it
opened in Los Angeles in Feb-
ruary. It will close there at the
end of this month.
Three actresses portray
Hannah — Lori Wilner, Susan
Gabriel and Andrea Arora. De-
troit audiences will meet Ar-
ora, whom Bruskin describes
as a "gem of an actress."
Arora, a former Interlochen
Music Camp dance student,
has experience in plays, soap

It offers a different
dimension to the
Holocaust stories,
because Hannah
was not a survivor
or a victim, realy
but a freedom
fighter.

operas, voice-overs, even re-
cordings for the blind. She
loves to tell how she got hired
for the role of Hannah.
"I was in the post office mail-
ing pictures and resumes when
Perry Bruskin and I began
talking. He mentioned his con-
tact with the play Hannah
Senesh. I said I had read the
rave reviews and wished I had
seen it. He offered to give me
the press reviews so I went to
his office to get them. Then he
asked me to come back and
read the script, which I did. I
later got a call to audition for
the part and the next day it was
mine," said the 27-year-old
New Jersey native.
Bruskin took the play to
Kibbutz Sdot Yam from which
Hannah left to join the British
mission.
"We also had the opportu-
nity to meet the man who was
the commander of Hannah's
parachute drop in Yugoslavia.
He told us she was a stubborn
girl who persisted and insisted
in crossing the Hungarian bor-
der because she believed it
would be better to go and die
than not to do anything about
the Hungarian Jews," he
added.
CHAIM hopes this fund
raiser will be a success in order
to help it educate as many as
possible about the horrors of
the Holocaust, according to
CHAIM President Charles
Silow of Southfield. He
founded the group in 1979 after
traveling to Europe to meet
some members of his family.
"I have no family in the
United States other than my

,

immediate family," he said. "I
never had a sense of having a
family until I met my relatives
in Brussels. It made me wonder
if other children of survivors
have the same feelings."
So Silow, a clinical social
worker, put an advertisement
for a meeting in The Jewish
News.
"Forty-five people showed
up. It was an incredible experi-
ence — like a sense of bonding.
We all felt a kinship towards
each other," he recalled.
The name CHAIM symboli-
cally reveals that life goes on.
"We represent a new genera-
tion after the Holocaust. We
are very aware of what our
parents went through. It
wasn't just history to us. We
therefore channel the energies
of our 125 members into
Holocaust educational proj-
ects. We feel a strong sense of
responsibility to educate about
the Holocaust so it won't ever
be repeated again," added the
son of Holocaust survivor Sara
Silow.
Among CHAIM's key proj-
ects is the recent fund raiser
that enabled the group to pur-
chase 160 video tapes of the
Academy-award winning
movie Genocide. Copies were
distributed to all the Regional
Educational Media Centers in
Michigan so that every school
district had a copy of the film.
"We figured on one video
tape of Genocide for every
10,000 high school students,"
said Betty Rotberg Ellias,
chairman of the project. The
schools received their videos at
the end of March.
"CHAIM sponsored a show-
ing of Genocide as a fund
raiser. We could see this would
be an excellent tool for
teachers, especially since the
classroom is the best environ-
ment in which to disseminate
information," added the
Southfield-Lathrup High
School English teacher. Ellias
also is the child of survivors
Samuel and Fay Rotberg.
CHAIM also distributed
copies of Genocide to several
local synagogues, temples and
Jewish schools and to Catholic
schools. Now it's researching
the different universities and
libraries that lend videos and
synagogues outside the Detroit
area to see if they are in-
terested in copies of the movie
about Germany before, during
and after World War II.
Other officers of this active
CHAIM group are Secretary
Eva Lipton, Treasurer Harry
Eisenberg and trustees Har-
riet Bakalar, Jacob Burnstein,
Rosa Chessler, Gail Gales,
Sarah Gordon, Eva Kraus,
Sherry Lipson and Cynthia
Wagner.
CHAIM belongs to the In-
ternational Network of Chil-
dren of the Jewish Holocaust
Survivors, although one
doesn't have to be Jewish nor a
child of a survivor to belong to
the local organization. 11]

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