Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Letters to Sala at Golda Och

Each year in observance of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Golda Och Academy hosts a lecture sponsored by Judy and Steve Elbaum. This year, the annual Elbaum Lecture featured author Ann Kirschner whose book Letters to Sala tells the story of her mother’s survival during the Holocaust. In addition to publishing a book, the New York Public Library created an exhibit of the letters and  memorabilia that tell Kirschner’s mother’s story. Both Ann Kirschner and the NY Public Library’s curator of the Letters to Sala exhibit, Jill Vexler spoke to GOA students as part of the school’s Yom Hashoah observance.

Judy Elbaum, author Ann Kirschner, and curator Jill Vexler.

Kirschner shared with Golda Och Academy students the story of growing up with the knowledge that
her mother was a Holocaust survivor, but not knowing any details about her mother’s experiences during
the war. Sala Garncarz Kirschner ended her silence when, in preparation for triple by-pass surgery in
1991, she handed her daughter, Ann, a wallet full of letters. Sala Garncarz Kirschner, (who turned 87
in March 2011), survived the surgery and – finally - revealed her wartime experiences to her family.

Sala was taken from her home when she was 16 and survived five years in seven different Nazi forced-labor camps. Saving the letters she eventually passed on to her daughter Ann became inextricably
linked with saving her life. The letters were not mere pieces of paper: they were the people she loved,
friends and family waiting for her return. She risked her life to preserve the letters always managing
somehow to take them with her from camp to camp.

Sixth-graders Samuel Z. of Montclair and Joshua S. of West Orange peruse the Letters to Sala exhibit. 
Liberated in 1945, Sala came to the United States as a war bride, and hid her papers in a closet. Five
years of her life were also hidden until the day she revealed the existence of more than 300 letters,
photographs, and documents.

Sala’s story is, above all, a story of life and one young woman’s way of seeing beyond years of horror.
From her letters, we learn about friendship and love, Jewish life in occupied Poland, Nazi labor camps,
the intensely human need to rebuild life after the catastrophe of war, and the ability of words to give and
sustain life.

Through the Elbaum’s generosity, the exhibit, Letters to Sala, is on display in the lobby of Golda Och
Academy, (1418 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange), through Friday, May 27. Exhibit hours are
Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30 pm. To arrange for visits to the exhibition, please contact
Abby Finkel at or 973-602-3798. 

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