In recent months I have been profoundly affected by the news of growing anti-Semitism in most European countries and in the United States, especially on college campuses. When, at the end of World War II, I emerged a living skeleton from the German concentration camps, I believed that the horror of Jew-hatred was defeated forever. And now, as I watch my grandchildren raise their young families, the news of the ancient hatred’s revival strikes fear in my heart for their safety. For the Jewish future.
The only ray of hope to brighten my soul radiates from the poignant letters I receive from readers of my Holocaust memoirs, who express their resolve to fight prejudice and hatred in any form.
Not long ago a letter reached me that stood out with the glow of its remarkable message. It came from Lyndell Higgins, founder and director of Stretch Dance Company in Los Angeles, California, who, in response to her concern over the rise of “hatred, racism and discrimination” proposes to create a unique method – a dance production based on my memoir – to teach about the Holocaust. Why teach about the Holocaust? Ms Higgins, in a brilliant historical insight, came to the conclusion that the Holocaust was nothing but the culmination of irrational hatred. She explains: “One of the most effective ways to teach people about the consequences of hatred is to teach them about the Holocaust.”
“As it is a dance production and will not be using dialogue,” Ms Higgins continues, “this performance can be attended by anyone with any level of education, speaking any language, therefore it could reach so many…The Stretch Dance Company, a new professional dance performance company, will travel to different universities throughout the United States and abroad …”
“A performance for the community at large will also be available,” she adds. “In addition, Stretch Dance Company will be offering workshops focused on Holocaust education, dance performance and theatrical design. Your memoir has the overall message of hope. Hope for humanity and future generations. …I share in that hope and wish to offer it to others,” Lyndell Higgins’ message concludes.
Who is this remarkable young woman with her amazing message of commitment?
What motivates a young beautiful dancer to fight “hatred, racism and discrimination” and with her unique, extraordinary sensitivity to create such unusual method to achieve her goal? What predisposes a California student to focus on the study of the horrors of the Holocaust and search among thousands of Holocaust memoirs for the one she feels the most appropriate for telling the story to students? In her words, “In order to achieve its educational purpose, the choreography for the present production is a combination of ballet, jazz, and modern method acting technique to create a realistic portrayal of emotions…for the students to feel empathy,” she elucidates. “One of the best tools to inspire change is empathy.”
Lyndell Walsh was born in southern California, and has been a professional choreographer since 2003. She received her education in drama and dance, and has teaching credentials in English literature and psychology from the University of California, Irvine. It was here she met her future husband, Christopher Higgins, an engineering student. The two were married in 2007 and made their home in Placentia, near Los Angeles. After completing their graduate degrees, Christopher’s is in engineering, Lyndell worked as high school teacher in the various fields of her expertise.
While all over the United States college students and teachers increasingly revive the ancient Jew-hatred in the form of anti-Israel propaganda, Lyndell Walsh Higgins is dedicated to reversing the trend. While I read about plans for a vicious BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel) event organized at Brooklyn College, my alma mater, my pain is soothed as I review Lyndell Higgins’s proposed program of disarming the haters by teaching about the consequences of hatred. May she serve as a shining role model for many others of her generation to ensure the future of the generations to come. May the Almighty bless Lyndell Walsh Higgins as she dances in the face of hate.