Colour My Journey

Federation CJA pioneers groundbreaking program, culminating in exhibition featuring beautiful artwork created by children and Holocaust survivors.

Participants at Colour My Journey

Participants at Colour My Journey

Last week, Federation CJA West Island unveiled a presentation of inspiring, educational and captivating works of art created by children working in tandem with Holocaust survivors during the groundbreaking Colour My Journey art series.  The final product, 18 works on canvas, was showcased at “A Vernissage to Remember” at the Dollard Civic Center on April 6.

Colour My Journey was introduced in August of 2013 by Cheryl Bender, coordinator for the Jewish West Island Family Institute (WIFI) a virtual learning centre for families with young children. She brought the idea to Supervisor of Services for Holocaust Survivors at the Cummings Centre, Myra Giberovitch.

“I jumped at the opportunity and immediately thought about including the members from our weekly Drop-in Centre for Holocaust Survivors,” recalls Giberovitch.  “They have some important life lessons to teach us:  Love of family and community.  Respect for the sanctity of life.  And it’s not just about the Holocaust – it’s about the continuity of their prewar, wartime and postwar lives.”

After consulting extensively with survivors, the idea gelled and became the Colour My Journey art program.  For several weeks in early 2014, parents and their children met and experienced memorable moments of painting and conversation with inspirational Holocaust survivors.  The weekly art sessions were expertly-led by local artist, Sarena Miller, and Myra Giberovitch.

Bridging the gap between generations.

Bridging the gap between generations.

Art and moments

Art and moments

The focus of the inter-generational program was the triumph of the human spirit. While meeting for lunch, discussions and painting, Holocaust survivors shared life lessons and stories, and their determination to survive and rebuild.  In the words of survivor Rachel Kimel, “I feel these children will remember us and will be able to tell others about us.” Chaia Libstug was very impressed with the children and their questions: “The children were angels and we found them so respectful to all the drop-in members who were strangers to them. The adults too were very attentive and asked us important questions.”

Lisa Wiltzer, whose daughter Frankie took part in the program, reflected on the impact: “The big take away from this is that I think that it was good for her to see (and for me to hear as well), that although they are survivors, they are so much more.  It is not the whole of who they are.  They can also be funny, and adorable, and have valuable things about their life to share that include all of who they have been and are today.”

The vernissage, which was open to the public, took place Sunday, April 6 at the Dollard Civic Centre.  The exhibit will tour before settling on a permanent home, with details to be announced in the coming weeks.

“It was great to see that the Holocaust survivors still had warmth and happiness in their hearts after what they went through,” said Jessica Raksi, an elementary school participant. The sentiment was echoed by her brother Benjamin: “It was amazing to ask the Holocaust survivors about their life, instead of just reading about it in books.  They had the courage to rebuild their lives – and keep smiling.”

Colour My Journey Participants

Colour My Journey Participants

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