Imagining what could have been
Aug. 31, 2023
An immersive art exhibition debuting Sept. 7 at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute will reimagine the lives that could have been led by young women and girls murdered in the Holocaust.
“Lives Eliminated, Dreams Illuminated (LEDI),” pairs photographs of Holocaust victims with paintings by New York painter Lauren Bergman and an original, short musical score composed by renowned Israeli composer Ella Milch-Sheriff, the daughter of survivors. The exhibition creates an immersive experience that compels viewers to spend time with the art and think about the topics more deeply.
In partnership with the Dr. David M. Milch Foundation, the owner of the exhibition, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute will host visits to “LEDI” from more than 25 schools, community groups and Brandeis classes. The exhibition will be located in the Kniznick Gallery at Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, in the Epstein Building.
Now in its 25th year, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute is dedicated to the mission of supporting, promoting and creating research at the intersection of Jewish studies and Jewish and gender studies. To that end, HBI consistently supports important elements of Holocaust and gender research, showing in various ways how the Holocaust was experienced differently by women and girls, and continues to break new ground on untold stories and angles that have not yet been written or recovered.
“‘Lives Eliminated: Dreams Illuminated’ is born out of the same desire to draw attention to the experience of girls and women during the Holocaust and encourage viewers to reflect on lessons to be learned from it,” said Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, the Shulamit Reinharz Director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute.
Lusia Rosenzweig Milch, mother of David M. Milch, and aunt of Ella Milch-Sheriff, is the subject of one of the paintings along with other members of her family who were murdered. Now 92, Rosenzweig Milch continues to talk about the Holocaust and her survival.
“Why do I sit here and talk about something extremely painful to me? I want to fulfill my mother’s instructions to tell the world what happened to us, never to stop telling it, never to stop teaching it, never to stop passing it on,” Rosenzweig Milch said. “I want to pass it on to those who will remember and teach it after I am gone.”
Bergman started the first painting of the series in 2017 after the “Unite the Right” Rally in Charlottesville, VA.
“Witnessing these injustices, these fundamentally disruptive changes in the fabric of our society, made me want to do something. As an artist, I fight my wars with a brush, I tell women’s stories.”
As she considered what to do, she saw a black and white photo of a little girl murdered in the Holocaust.
“It came to me. I have to give her something better than being forgotten. I sketched her in a beautiful field. I had to take the person out of the black and white factual documentation of her death and illuminate, give her life.”
David Milch and Bergman met through a series of coincidences, and he acquired a series of 20 paintings and commissioned more. He invited his cousin, Milch-Sheriff, for a viewing, and she was inspired to set them to music.
“The innocence, the naivete together with the horrible story inspired me. It is not background music, but a composition inspired from a combination of the photo and the painting,” she said.
The two artists collaborated to create a series of 23 paintings with musical compositions. After the debut at HBI, LEDI will travel to the Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami, the Memory and Tolerance Museum in Mexico City, and the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. LEDI has received video testimonials from senators Charles Schumer, and Richard Blumenthal, N.J. Governor Phil Murphy, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and others.
“This is a powerful message of how art gives us a handle, a frame, a lens to be able to understand intolerance, racism, hate, antisemitism through the artistic vision and creativity of two brilliant artists, Lauren and Ella,” said David M. Milch.
An opening reception will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Kniznick Gallery on Sept. 7. It will be on display through Oct. 25. The gallery is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Thursday.