Painted Memories: A Jewish Childhood in Poland before the Holocaust – Public Lecture by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

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Date(s) - 29/10/2015
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

H1.16 Ground Floor, Building H Monash Caulfield Campus


Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust

image for Painted Memories talk

Mayer Kirshenblatt, born in Opatów (Apt in Yiddish) in 1916, left a remarkable record in both words and images of Jewish life in Poland before the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of an inquisitive boy. He left Poland for Canada in 1934 and taught himself to paint at age 73. Since then, he made it his mission to remember the world of his childhood in living color, “lest future generations know more about how Jews died than how they lived.” His daughter, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, will present his lively paintings woven together with his stories, based on interviews that she recorded with him for more than forty years, Together, father and daughter recover a lost world – the streets and courtyards of the town of Apt, witness details of daily life, and meet those who lived and worked there: the pregnant hunchback, who stood under the wedding canopy just hours before giving birth; the kheyder teacher caught in bed with the drummer’s wife; the cobbler’s son, who was dressed in white pajamas all his life to fool the angel of death; the corpse that was shaved; and the couple who held a “black wedding” in the cemetery during a cholera epidemic.

This moving collaboration–a unique blend of memoir, oral history, and artistic interpretation–is at once a labor of love, a tribute to a distinctive imagination, and a brilliant portrait of life in one Jewish home town.

The lecture will be followed by a film about Mayer’s return to his home town, Opatów, and how the town received him.

Photo credit: Mayer Kirshenblatt, Purim Play


Hi-resMarta Kusmier
Marta Kusmier

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is Chief Curator of the Core Exhibition at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.  She is in Australia as Kronhill Visiting Scholar.

She is University Professor Emerita and Professor Emerita of Performance Studies at New York University. Her books include Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage; Image before My Eyes: A Photographic History of Jewish Life in Poland, 1864–1939 (with Lucjan Dobroszycki); They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust (with Mayer Kirshenblatt), and Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory (with Jeffrey Shandler). She received an award for lifetime achievement by the Foundation for Jewish Culture, an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland from the President of Poland. She currently serves on Advisory Boards for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Council of American Jewish Museums, Vienna Jewish Museum, Berlin Jewish Museum, and Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow

Thursday 29 October, 7.30pm
H1.16 Monash Caulfield

Admission Free; No Prior Bookings