March’s featured portrait was created by Luis at a workshop for teachers at the Museum of Jewish Heritage last week. The group created portraits based on current Memory Project subjects as well as a few subjects from our upcoming addition to the project (more on that soon!). The teachers left the workshop inspired and ready to bring The Memory Project into their own classrooms.
We selected this portrait of Dora Zylberberg because we were struck by how Dora’s face emerges from the darkness. It is deep and layered, which is how we imagine the lives of all of the subjects we feature, even when we don’t know their stories.
We know very little about Dora. Her photograph was found in Auschwitz. So was a photograph of her brother, Chaim. After choosing this portrait of Dora, we looked back at the book in which we found the original photos—the beautiful The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Ann Weiss. We saw that Chaim’s picture, taken in 1920 had an inscription on the front. It says it was taken on the evening of Purim. Purim is Jewish holiday commemorating a time in 3 B.C.E. when Jews in Persia were saved from annihilation ordered by a prime minister named Haman. It is an emotional coincidence that we are writing this on Purim, nearly 100 years after the photo was taken.
Luis reflected on his experience making Dora’s portrait:
“It was very engaging to find a way to… bring to life the aspects of people who lived in the Holocaust. [I will remember] the lives of the people we tried to capture and to remember that the picture only captures a moment in life that is kept forever.”