Montgomery College honored Holocaust survivors in a recent exhibition of Portraits of Life: Holocaust Survivors of Montgomery County, Maryland. During an opening reception Nov. 15 at the College’s Sarah Silberman Art Gallery on the Rockville Campus, six Holocaust survivors shared remarks; three of them are featured in the exhibit: Halina Peabody, Josie Traum, and Manny Mandel.
“Timing of this exhibit could not have been better,” said Ken Jassie, professor of art history and coordinator of the Portraits of Life Exhibition and Holocaust Education Program. “Originally scheduled for two years ago, the pandemic and gallery renovations delayed its return to campus. Now, with the war in the Middle East, and the increasing problems with antisemitism, we see how important Holocaust education remains.”
Montgomery College President Jermaine F. Williams kicked off the event and introduced Montgomery County Council President Evan Glass and Councilmember Wil Jawando. Glass reminded attendees of the value of Holocaust survivors’ stories, sharing that his grandfather, a military POW, struggled to conceal his Jewish heritage and LGBT lifestyle. Jawando emphasized the value of education and listening through the lens of his experiences.
“The most profound speakers of the evening where the six Holocaust survivors, who shared their testimonies and life histories, and urged continued education and standing against disinformation… all while living with love,” said Jamie Gillan, director of the Paul Peck Humanities Institute.
Created by Montgomery College faculty and student photographers and first exhibited in 2005, Portraits of Life: Holocaust Survivors of Montgomery County, Maryland, is a collection of photography portraits and narratives that document experiences of more than 40 Holocaust survivors who have been Montgomery County, Md., residents. Displayed on large individual panels (24” x 36”), the collection as a whole conveys the loss, survivorship, and triumph of the human spirit.
“Portraits of Life is an important part of what we do at the College,” Jassie said. “And the Holocaust survivors are important to the community. These people lost so much, but they are not embittered. And of the more than 40 people depicted on the panels, only a handful are left, which is why we want to honor them while we can.”
The exhibit has traveled to area schools, public libraries, and other locations including Maryland Humanities Council headquarters in Baltimore, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., the Strathmore Mansion, and the Jewish Cultural Center in Rockville. A joint program, it was originally sponsored by Montgomery College’s Paul Peck Humanities Institute, the Communication Arts Technologies Department, the Arts Institute, Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and Friends of Greater Washington. It was funded in part by the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, Md.
To request the exhibit and a Holocaust survivor speaker for your school or community group in Montgomery County, Md., please contact Professor Ken Jassie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the "Portraits of Life: Holocaust Survivors of Montgomery County (PDF, ) ."