by Liz Feldstern, Executive Director, Institute for Holocaust Education
Fabric of Survival weaves these themes together in a way that awakens our senses and brings many different emotions to the surface. More than a stunning display of fiber art (although Fabric of Survival is much sought after by museums the world over), more than a mother’s gift to her children (although the artist spent 22 years hand-stitching these tapestries to share her memories with her daughters), more than a Holocaust survivor’s narrative (although the artist’s childhood in Nazi-occupied Poland included leaving her family behind and hiding in a series of villages until liberated by the Russian Army) – Fabric of Survival is an experience that stirs the soul.
This collection of 36 hand-embroidered and collage tapestries is the work of Holocaust survivor Esther Nisenthal Krinitz. Sponsored by the Institute for Holocaust Education, the exhibit will be on display at the KANEKO (1111 Jones Street) in the Old Market from Jan. 15 through March 14.
The public is invited to view the exhibit during KANEKO’s regular hours (M-F, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sat. 1-5 p.m.). Admission is free. Several special events are planned for the public, including an Opening Reception on Feb. 6 from 6-9 p.m., and a Saturday night program arranged by the Omaha synagogues to take place Feb. 21. Watch upcoming Jewish Press editions for details on this event, which is open to the Jewish community.
The real goal of the exhibit, however, goes beyond just the general public. An in-depth educational curriculum has been created, and students visiting the exhibit will gain a greater understanding of the Holocaust, as well as cultural diversity, prejudice, individual identity, choice, and personal freedom. Schools from throughout the area will take field trips to the exhibit, and the IHE will be ready with a cadre of volunteer docents.
“The response from volunteers in the community has been fantastic,” said Eunie Denenberg, Chair of the Fabric of Survival events. “This exhibit is something different – gorgeous to look at, but also with an important message. I think people are really responding to that.”
The exhibit’s message will be shared especially well by Krinitz’s two daughters, Bernice Steinhardt and Helene McQuade. The sisters will be in Omaha for a private IHE/KANEKO event at the exhibit, and will also be at the public opening on Feb. 6, ready to answer questions and share insights about their mother’s artwork.
The sisters will also participate in the workshops that the IHE has designed for four OPS middle schools to explore Fabric of Survival. Through a collaboration with Collective for Youth, students in the after-school programs at McMillan Magnet, Morton Magnet, King Science and Technology Magnet, and Lewis and Clark middle schools will spend an entire month focusing on the Holocaust and Krinitz’s story. IHE Education Coordinator Donna Walter explained, “The workshops will give students a great introduction to the Holocaust, but we are especially excited about bringing them to see the exhibit and then guiding them to create their own fiber art projects.” With the help of local artists and art educators, the students will use Krinitz’s work to inspire their own art, focusing on a memory from their personal narrative. “This project takes us outside the IHE’s comfort zone, which is why the artists working with us are so important; but it also embodies everything the IHE’s mission is about – learning about the past and then connecting it to today, helping students to see that the Holocaust is still relevant.”
Funding for this project has been generously provided by the Nebraska Arts Council, Humanities Nebraska, the KANEKO, and others. The public is encouraged to take advantage of this exceptional opportunity to view Fabric of Survival at the KANEKO between Jan. 15 and March 14. Group and guided tours can be arranged by contacting the IHE at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.334.6576.