As a Jew born in the 1960s, I was proud that our culture was well represented at the top of the entertainment industry on both the big and small screens.
Carl Reiner, who died this past June at age 98, was best known as the creator and producer of one of the most successful shows on television during the ’60s, “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” His parents were immigrants from Austria and Romania.
Actor Kirk Douglas was 103 when he died in February. The son of Russian immigrants who wrote about his life in the autobiography, “The Ragman’s Son,” Douglas’ career spanned over 60 years. Notable roles included “Lust for Life,” where he portrayed artist Vincent van Gogh, and his career-defining performance in “Spartacus.” It was in the latter film as an executive producer that Douglas gave full screenwriting credit to Dalton Trumbo, who had been on the Hollywood blacklist.
Both entertainment icons were among the individuals the Jewish world lost in 2020, but there were also many people who died during the year that might not have been A-list names but still gave a voice to those who could not speak.
When paying tribute to the household names that are now gone, let’s also remember the loss of Holocaust survivors that made human rights advocacy their life’s work. Their individual contributions might be lesser known than their celebrity counterparts, but they are no less important.
They were innovators and pioneers in their own right, enriching global communities.
Included among them:
‣Gabor Hirsch, who survived Auschwitz to advocate for Holocaust awareness in Switzerland
‣Maurice Cling, a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, who became an English teacher
‣Esther Cohen, who escaped Auschwitz and educated fellow Greeks about the Holocaust
‣Stephan Ross, who founded the New England Holocaust Memorial
‣Maurice Bidermann, a leading fashion magnate
‣Mikhail Zhvanetsky, a Russian comedian and writer
And the list goes on...
May they all remain forever in our consciousness as we move ahead to hopefully a brighter and healthier year in 2021.
Email your thoughts to Editor Alan Goch at email@example.com.