(JTA) — As a Roman Catholic in Warsaw during World War II, Jan Karski could easily have ignored the horrors unfolding behind the walls of the Jewish ghetto. Instead, as a member of the Polish Resistance, he donned a yellow Star of David and infiltrated the Warsaw Ghetto to report on what was happening to the Jews there.
Karski’s reconnaissance in the ghetto and elsewhere provided the West with some of the first eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust. He even met with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 to share what he saw — though the information he provided did not cause Roosevelt to intervene more strongly.
Karski died in 2000 at 86 and posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ top honor. But he is hardly a household name in the country he adopted as a home, despite his singular role in history.
The producers of a one-man show about Karski hope that will change starting Monday night, when a staging of “Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski” airs on PBS as part of the broadcaster’s “Great Performances” series. Karski is played by David Straitharn, an award-winning actor who specializes in portraying historical figures.
“Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski,” by Clark Young and Derek Goldman, first premiered in 2019 at Georgetown University, where Karski was a professor until he retired in 1984. During the height of the pandemic in 2020, the play was turned into a black-and-white film, directed by Goldman and Jeff Hutchens, shot over six days on a soundstage in Brooklyn.
The PBS pickup will give the play its biggest audience yet, and its premiere on Monday night is followed by a companion documentary, “Remembering Jan Karski.” The documentary is produced by WNET Group’s “Exploring Hate,” a multi-platform reporting initiative about the roots and rise of hate in America and around the world.
“We have the artists’ hope that with more visibility and more impact, that at least some kind of awareness can happen, but it’s daunting and the dangers of just preaching to the converted are real,” Goldman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “That’s why I’m hoping that PBS and this ‘Exploring Hate’ series can widen the awareness of Karski.”
Strathairn has portrayed Karski since the play’s first staged reading in 2014 as part of Karski’s centennial celebration.
Straithairn is known for his portrayals of historical figures, including of Edward R. Murrow, the American newsman who broadcast from Europe during World War II, in 2005’s “Good Night, and Good Luck” and as the voice of Roosevelt in 2017’s “Darkest Hour,” about England’s handling of the lead-up to the war.
“The reception far exceeded our expectation, in terms of many people who knew and were close to Karski, feeling that David had tapped something very profound and very deep about Karski,” Goldman told JTA. “People said it was like he had risen from the grave.”
Goldman, who teaches at Georgetown, never met Karski. But the play was informed by hundreds of former colleagues and students, in addition to Karski’s own memoir and interviews.
“Part of why I think the Karski story has been such a gift to explore is that it’s a story about allyship. It’s about bearing witness across difference. It’s about individual responsibility for the world. It’s about our human tendency to deny,” said Goldman.
That relevance is why Goldman considers “Remember This” a current events piece, even though most of it took place 80 years ago. This April is the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the longest sustained battle of resistance against the Nazis that took place in the same location Karski had infiltrated just months earlier.
Even all these years after Karski first sounded the alarm, people still deny the Holocaust happened. Goldman knows those people aren’t likely to tune into Great Performances, but he’s determined to try and reach those who need to hear Karski’s message.
“My interest is always in the immediacy and the present,” Goldman said. “I think one of the things theater does well, and has for thousands of years, is bring us into a communal space to notice and bear witness to things that are happening in the world, but that we might be complacent about or just in denial about, which of course is a major theme of this work.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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