Remarks of Former Ambassador Shapiro & Ms. Julie Fisher 70th Commemorative Performance of “Brundibár”

Ms. Fisher: 

Before Dan gives his official greetings, I would like to take a moment to personally thank Frannie for inviting the US Embassy to be a part of this project. It was a pleasure to serve on her committee.

I have known Frannie for several years. She was my daughter’s beloved music teacher in first grade.  We are both educators.  So, I wasn’t surprised when she called me to tell me that she had an idea. I knew that Frannie had great ideas. But, this idea was a bit different.

This idea was an enormous, all-encompassing project that would involve, not only the entire Walworth- Barbour American International School, students and staff on every grade level, but also children in local Israeli schools, a very special visitor from America, 15,000 butterflies made from every possible material imaginable, 2 casts of performers, 6 performances, hundreds of audience members from all over the country, and so much more!

It’s been an incredible pleasure to see the talented, creative, energetic, and perseverant Frannie Goldstein in action.

Like Frannie, I was introduced to Brundibar through the translation published in America in 2003 written by celebrated American playwright Tony Kushner.  Illustrations were done by the world-renowned American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, whom you may know from his book,Where the Wild Things Are.  Kusher and Sendak’s version of Brundibar brought it to life for American audiences.  Brundibar, with its universal message of good overcoming evil is a powerful tool for us to use as we educate our children to understand that by working together, they have the power to make the world a more accepting, loving, and peaceful place.

The holistic, inclusive nature of this project and the positive, life-affirming message of resilience and hope has made it an exemplary model of educational excellence.  As they say here in Israel-Wow! Kol Hakavod, Frannie!

I also want to thank our talented embassy public diplomacy team with special thanks to Ruth Ish-Horowicz and Michele Dastin Van-Rijn for all their hard work and to Galit Dalah and the residence staff for their hard work on the reception tonight. 

Ambassador Shapiro: 

Minister Piron, Charge d’Affairs Karel Pažourek, Ela, Superintendent John Gates, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Julie and I are delighted and honored to be here at the 70th year commemorative performance of “Brundibár” and we at the United States Embassy are proud to co-sponsor this special event.

Minister Piron, we are so happy that you are here with us this evening, in support of the school’s efforts to make this important story more widely known.  We applaud you in your mission to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and to promote lessons in tolerance and acceptance of others in classrooms throughout Israel.

כבוד השר פירון, אנחנו כל כך שמחים שאתה כאן איתנו הערב, תומך במאמציו של בית הספר להפיץ את הסיפור החשוב הזה

אנו משבחים אותך על מחויבותך למשימה של שימור זיכרון השואה וקידום שיעורים בסובלנות וקבלת האחר בכיתות הלימוד בכל רחבי הארץ

Karel, you were a true partner in making this project a success.  We thank the Embassy of the Czech Republic and Czech House for your dedicated support and for joining us on this exciting venture.

I want to thank Oded Bera, Director of Beit Thereseinstadt for his contributions to this project. I know you have a personal family connection to Ghetto Thereseinstadt which led you to the important work of preserving the memories of those who passed through so they may be shared now and in the generations that follow.

I want to thank Dorit Zeltner and her team at the Zeltner Publishing House for their time, commitment, energy, and beautiful artistic contributions to this effort.

Ela, thank you so much for being here. You traveled all the way from America to share your stories and memories with us. Your presence brings an even deeper meaning to this project. We salute you in your efforts to ensure that this tragic chapter in our history is not forgotten, and that important lessons are learned to ensure it will never happen again. This is truly a tribute to those who did not survive Theresienstadt.

We welcome and honor those of you here tonight who suffered the horrors and indignities of the Holocaust, the Shoah.  You suffered the loss of family members and friends.  You witnessed true horror.  Yet you survived and rebuilt your lives.  Thank you for your courage, your resilience, and your unwavering spirit.

Thank you to John Gates, Ada Renan, and the American International School students, staff, administration, and parents for this huge undertaking, and, in particular, Frannie Goldstein, as Julie mentioned, who was the initiator -the engine- behind this worthy project, bringing Brundibar to a wider audience, touching all our lives.  This project, which has involved the students from pre-school to 12th grade has made this a common experience and a new shared memory.

I want to thank Ty Flewelling, chairperson, and the entire AIS School Board for their ongoing service to the school. Margret Ellwanger, an AIS School Board member, was instrumental in helping the project extend outside of the school community.  High school students from the Na’amat Technological High School in Shefaram connected with the project through educational workshops, and they joined in making some of the 15,000 butterflies. Uri Reisner of the Tchernikovsky High School in Netanya volunteered his school orchestra for the performances. Thank you Uri. Participation with local schools brought children from different backgrounds and cultures to learn together about hope, resilience, and acceptance.

This evening, we remember and honor the courage, humanity, creativity, and spirit of those who endured Theresienstadt.  The conditions were inhumane, a place of death and disease — and yet music and the arts flourished.  This opera represents the power of music over the most miserable of conditions.   The singing and performance were acts of resistance – the children and adults who worked so hard to put on the shows refused to give in to despair and to the dehumanization of the camps.

The Holocaust provides us with profound lessons about where prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination, and xenophobia can lead.  Theresienstadt teaches us the horrors of how human beings can be treated.

Brundibár teaches us about the incredible strength and resilience of the human spirit.   We are reminded to treat our fellow human beings –however different they are from ourselves- with respect, understanding, and compassion.  These are important lessons for us to share with our children. Brundibar gives us that opportunity.

We stand together, united with all of you here this evening — Minister Piron, Karel, Ela, Franny, the school, the performers, the survivors – and with the citizens of Israel.  With this performance, we honor those who did not survive, and we reaffirm the courage of the human spirit, and celebrate the triumph of good over evil.

Thank you for being here.