Spring has arrived and so did a yellow envelope from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. containing a thank you note for my contribution as well as four greeting cards in honor of Yom HaShoah, remembering the Holocaust through children’s art.
The colorful copies of the original drawings are by Simon Jeruchim, whose life as a teenager over seventy years ago, hiding in Normandy during the German occupation of France, was transformed with a simple gift of paint and paper. In that horrific time the simple pleasures of his childhood, such as his love for drawing, had long since vanished. But all that changed when Jeruchim was lucky enough to meet a local schoolteacher. Keeping his background a secret, he shared with the teacher his passion for drawing. It was then that the teacher gave him a gift more meaningful than he could have possibly imagined – a sketchbook and a set of watercolors.
The pictures Jeruchim drew in that book allowed him to regain some sense of his childhood and playful imagination, depicting the simple beauty that surrounded him in daily life. The dreams of visiting a lovely forest where animals live in peace and unity, surrounded by luscious trees and vegetation glistening in the afternoon sunshine, a bountiful dinner at a local hotel’s restaurant with fruits, chicken, and wine served by a waiter for his dad, or a beautiful bouquet of freshly-cut flowers adorning the table at his home – was just a wishful future dream filling his creative mind that he so vividly portrayed in his cheerful drawings.
Today, Simon Jeruchim, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, is a noted package designer specializing in the creation of new lines of fragrance and cosmetics. He also enjoys other artistic endeavors such as graphic design, book illustration, and painting. He lives and writes in Pomona, New York. His book “Hidden in France – A Boy’s Journey Under the Nazi Occupation” recollects his and his family’s life when World War II broke out.
The Bay Area Scene: The Contemporary Jewish Museum gives the Bay Area a chance to celebrate a legend of its countercultural heyday with the exhibition “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution,” on view through July 5. This is the first comprehensive retrospective about the life and career of the famed rock impresario. Twenty-five years after his tragic death, the story of how an immigrant Jewish kid and a Holocaust survivor became a rock and roll icon is presented in more than 250 objects including memorabilia, photographs, psychedelic art, and more, from the private Graham family archive and other lenders.
Bill Graham was born Wolodia “Wolfgang” Grajonca in Berlin on January 8, 1931, the son of Russian Jews who emigrated to Germany in search of a better life. In 1938, after Kristallnacht, Graham’s mother decided to send him with his sister Tolla onward to France. In 1941, as part of a Red Cross effort to help Jewish children fleeing the Nazis, Graham arrived in New York, malnourished and suffering from rickets, at the age of eleven. After the war, he would learn that his mother and one of his five sisters had perished in Europe.
This year also marks what would have been Graham’s 85th birthday, and with all the celebrations planned in conjunction with this special exhibit, I was privileged to be invited to a very moving and emotional performance by the San Francisco Girls Chorus, titled “Voices Carry: Music Bill Graham Loved Sung in Commemoration of Yom HaShoah.” The evening of beautiful choral arrangements of Bill Graham’s favorite songs in Yiddish, English, and Hebrew, with the musical prayer of “Shema Israel”, were sung to mesmerizing perfection by the Girls Chorus. The packed auditorium’s audience jumped to their feet with heartfelt applause and tears in their eyes.
“Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” is a must-see historic exhibit for all who love music and who want to learn about the journey in 1938 when the Grajonca family placed Bill and his youngest sister in a children’s home to save them from attacks on Jews. For details visit www.cjm.org.
Lina Broydo immigrated from Russia, then the Soviet Union, to Israel where she was educated and got married. After working at the University in Birmingham, England she and her husband immigrated to the United States. She lives in Los Altos Hills, CA and writes about travel, art, style, entertainment, and sports. She hardly cooks or bakes, with no borsch or piroshky on her home cooking menu. Therefore, she makes reservations and enjoys dining out, mostly sushi.
By Lina Broydo