International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, was commemorated by Selfhelp Community Services when it introduced its HEARTS (Holocaust Educational Arts) Program and accepted a donation of a painting by Holocaust survivor and artist Vitaliy Veksler. Veksler’s painting, “Not Again, Please!,” of a broken violin, will hang in Selfhelp’s Washington Heights and Bronx office.
In response to a 2018 Claims Conference survey that reported that “seven out of 10 Americans believe fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to,” Selfhelp, dedicated to serving the needs of Holocaust survivors, added to its agenda by prioritizing Holocaust education and creating its HEARTS initiative. Featuring artwork created by Holocaust survivors, the program ensures the transmission of Holocaust history. It also provides an opportunity for survivors to contemplate their Holocaust memories and process the emotions they carry.
Veksler, a Selfhelp client, was born in the U.S.S.R. and raised in Odessa. He came to New York in 1992. His artwork has been featured in art exhibitions in Moscow, Kiev, Odessa, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, New Jersey, Oklahoma and New York. Veksler’s statement describing the symbolism of his work was prepared in Russian, and translated into English for the dedication.
“The theme of a broken violin symbolizes for me the tragic events in the fate of our people. They are widely known: the inquisition, pograms, the Holocaust. The voice of a violin is much like a human voice. Something of our soul and destiny, of our sorrows and losses, is in it. I have painted violins many times, always in awe of its grace and beauty. I am passing this work to you with a feeling that it will be in kind hands. I would be so happy if it is liked and remembered by all who work at and visit your office,” Veksler stated.
Katie Foley, director, public affairs, Selfhelp Community Services, acknowledged Veksler’s gift. “We are honored to receive Mr. Veksler’s painting. It has significant meaning for all survivors and it will hang proudly in our office. This year on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Selfhelp launched HEARTS, an exhibition of artwork created by Holocaust survivors. By viewing these works, we’re brought closer to the history of the Holocaust. Through our educational initiatives, we ensure that the memory of the Holocaust will not be forgotten by generations to come.”
To view the artwork online via a virtual gallery, please visit www.selfhelp.net/holocausteducation.com. A New York City exhibition will be held this spring.
By Yvette Finkelstein