Sunday, September 19, 2021

We are defined by the Torah which yields a world of purpose and meaning.  We cannot, we do not, we will not bind ourselves to a world of hatred and destruction.  -- Rabbi Stephanie Aaron

Artist Lisa Mishler shares with us a unique and very personal exhibition of her mixed-media and acrylic artwork in L'Chayim-To Life at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Rd.  Th gallery hosts an artists reception on Sunday, February 15th from 2 to 4 PM. 

Mishler is an award winning artist who creates colorful abstracts, landscapes and portraits.  She teaches at The Drawing Studio, and for other arts organizations.  She is also the daughter of two holocaust survivors, Sol and Luba Kotz.

L'Chayim-To Life is appropriately named because the exhibit is indeed a celebration of the lives of Mishler's parents Sol and Luba Kotz.  They were polish Jews who lived lives of quiet heroism even while undergoing incredible suffering at the hands of the Nazis.  They both served in the partisan army in Poland.  Luba was a nurse who smuggled Jews orphans away from war zones.  Sol was also in the partisan army, then went on to serve also in the Russian army during the fight against the Nazis.  Sol and Luba were separated in the war, reunited in 1946, and eventually made their way to Tucson where they raised a family and contributed to our community life.

Mishler's exhibit, which she calls a "visual account of [my] parents journey out of the Holocaust", is unique in that her artwork is accompanied by printed text from her father's memoir.  The signature image of her exhibit is Beshert-Meant to Be, a romantic image of two embracing lovers.  The image becomes much more than simple romance when reading Sol's account of two trains that arrived at the same time at the station in Lodz, Poland in 1946.

Sol says. "As I was getting off the train, another train from the east pulled into the station on the opposite platform.  One could tell that the passengers were mostly refugees from the cut of their clothes.  I suddenly was attracted by a girl getting of the train walking down the platform.  From her back, it looked like Luba, enough like her to make me call out, Luba! Luba! Luba!  The girl stopped and looked around.  It was  Luba.  At first she didn't recognize me and she started to walk away.  Then, she turned around and started running toward me.  We embraced and kissed each other.

A few hours, or even a few minutes earlier or later and life would have been very different for these two.  Cosmic good luck or "meant to be?"

Another moving account is of Luba's 120 mile journey through the snow and bitter cold to find Sol's family.  Mishler's interpretation of this trek is documented in My Mothers Walk (9 Weeks).

Mishler's beautiful and abstract painting is the Kanatorovich Building Bombing is a compelling interpretation of Sol's harrowing account of undergoing a Nazis assault on the Jewish ghetto of Glubokoye, Poland.  He watched his infant son and his brother die in front of him, and he was sure that he and Luba were doomed.  They each made a run for the Kanatorovich Building bomb shelter, and both survived the flying bullets.

Walking through this exhibit is like a journey in time.  as we progress we feel the murderous threat of the times and the determination to live slowly give way to images that suggest the survival of these two, and the survival of the Jewish people.  Paintings move from Turmoil to Nurture to Moving into the Light.  They tell a story with a happy ending for this family.

This brings us to the quote from Rabbi Stephanie Aaron of Tucson's Congregation Chaverim at the begging of this review.  Rabbi Aaron reminds us that whether we are informed by the Torah, the New Testament, the Quran, the Dao, the teachings of Buddha, or perhaps the teachings of humanists philosophers, we are called to resist the human urge to commit genocide.

Sadly, history teaches us that the Jews were not the only targets of Nazi perfidy.  There was a long list of victims who discovered in concentration camps: cultural and ethnic groups such as Poles and other Slavs, Romani 9Gypsies); disabled people, homosexuals, political opponents of the Nazis and various religious groups (catholic, Protestant, and Baha's).  And this doesn't include military personnel and civilians who perished in the war against the Nazis and the Japanese.  The fact that the Jews were an educated, literary people meant that they could write histories, fictionalized accounts, and memoirs for posterity so that we would always remember that particular Holocaust.

The have been more genocides since then: Pol Pot in cambodia, the decimation of the Maya in Guatemala, genocide of ethnic Hutu's in Rawanda. the "disappeared" in Argentina, systematic killing of Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina and perhaps the worst of all, the thirty million plus individuals who were murdered during the Maoist campaign "The Four Olds" in China between 1966 and 1976.

Today were are confronted with the brutality of the Islamic State who seem bent on terrorizing everyone, even their own.

As Rabbi Aaron says, "We cannot, we do not, we will not bind ourselves to a world of hatred and destruction."  We thank the artist Lisa Mishler for interpreting in her work a tale of survival and hope, a tale that is truly a celebration of life and a rejection of hatred and destruction.



Boni Weinstein
I read the book Saturday and thought it was wonderful. Not only was it so well written but I learned so much. It is the first book about the Holocaust that I could get through without being so sick afterwards. Your parents were incredibly brave people and I so admire their courage and spirit. I brought a copy to my son and urged him to read the book. I need to buy more.
Denise Mathot
I finished your book and it is SO Good!! It is unbelievable what your parents went through and I love the way their story is told.
Ava Young
"Zalman Ber" is a small book that makes a big impact. Written in a voice emerging from one of the most shameful and violent periods in human history, Zalman Ber lingers. I could easily carry this story with me for a lifetime, inspired by it's example of the resiliency of the human spirit. It makes me want to be a better person than I have been."