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Honoring the Holocaust and Keeping Memory Alive Through Dance​

Rachel directs and choreographs ZACHOR, an initiative to create contemporary dance inspired by the stories of Holocaust survivors

By CJP Arts and Culture

Published Apr 12, 2023

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As part of Boston’s Jewish Arts Collaborative’s Community Creative Fellowship, dancer Rachel Linsky is studying and working with Yiddish dance.

Inspired by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, a Jewish-Polish composer who created brilliant classical compositions with clear Jewish (Klezmer) themes, Rachel has taken a deep research dive into Klezmer music and Yiddish dance.

At 20 years old, when the Nazis invaded, Weinberg fled to the Soviet Union and was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. With his music, he kept alive a whole world of his family and culture that had perished. On account of antisemitism in the Soviet Union, his work received heavy pushback, which prevented it from reaching the level of global recognition it should have had.

With the research being done under this fellowship, Rachel will be creating contemporary dance with these same Jewish themes as a way to honor Weinberg’s story, celebrate the influences he kept alive in his work, and attempt to restore a small piece of his deserved legacy.

Hidden is the culmination of a multi-faceted research project that includes community workshops, dance films, and live performances. The contemporary dance work is inspired by the story of Holocaust survivor Aaron Elster, who survived at the mercy of a Polish family who kept him hidden in their attic for two years.

Hidden has been developed through a highly collaborative creative process to create a resonant and embodied Holocaust education experience for the artists involved in the work. This piece tackled the pressing question of what the future of Holocaust education might look like, especially in a time when fewer survivors are left to tell their stories first-hand.

Rachel directs and choreographs ZACHOR, an initiative to create contemporary dance inspired by the stories of Holocaust survivors. In addition to ZACHOR’s cast of professional dancers, Hidden features a cohort of teenage dancers who participated in a free, week-long “Embodied Holocaust Education” workshop through ZACHOR.

Throughout the week, students took classes in contemporary technique and improvisation and discussed Holocaust survivor Aaron Elster’s memoir and the importance of keeping its testimonies alive today. They worked collaboratively to build a five-minute piece of choreography inspired by Aaron’s story and their reflections, which serves as the ending to this work.

Hidden premiered as a dance film in September of 2021. The choreography in the film served as a launching point to be developed further into our live performance. The film was created in residence at Chelsea Theatre Works with videography by Olivia Moon Photography.

Learn more about this project here.

Selection is a site-specific dance filmed at New England Holocaust Memorial. Since its premiere in Fall of 2020, Selection has been chosen as a Finalist at the Prague International Monthly Film Festival, and presented in Nozama’s virtual Empower one Another festival, Athen’s International Monthly Film Festival, Collective Exchange’s FRAMES festival, Mostra Internacional de Dança Imagens 2020, Earl Mosely’s Diversity of Dance inaugural Dance is Activism Film Festival, and the Boston Center for the Arts Dance Documentation in Isolation Series.

Selection was choreographed and directed by Rachel Linsky, and filmed and edited by Olivia Moon Photography. The Choreography for Selection was created using the words of Bernard Marks and memories and images of Agi Geva and Elie Wiesel discussing the selection process in Nazi concentration camps.

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Sophie Krentzman is the Director, Arts and Culture at Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP). She previously served as Senior Development Officer, Major Gifts at CJP. Sophie has also worked at Hillel International and Sitar Arts Center. Sophie is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Sophie is the first per...

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