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'After the Trauma: Holocaust Survivors and Laotian Refugees Confront the Past'
An innovative, thought-provoking exhibition, After the Trauma: Holocaust Survivors and Laotian Refugees Confront the Past, will open at the Sherman Museum of Jewish Civilization with a special program on Sunday, April 3.
The program will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the 1877 Club, when the Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies presents its annual Holocaust Educators Awards to six middle school and high school teachers.
Following the awards ceremony, there will be a panel discussion led by Lourdes Dale, assistant professor of psychology, and students from the Department of Psychology (A&S); Professors Avinoam Patt and Richard Freund of the Greenberg Center; and members of the Lao Community Association of CT.
After the panel discussion, guests will go to the Sherman Museum of Jewish Civilization (located in Mortensen Library) to view the new exhibition, which will run through Aug. 6, 2011. The exhibition and program are generously sponsored in part by Steven Konover, the Lao Community Association of CT, and the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Fund/Koopman Share at the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford.
Sunday's program and exhibition opening are free and open to the public. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Susan Gottlieb at 860.768.4964 or email@example.com.
After the Trauma: Holocaust Survivors and Laotian Refugees Confront the Past is a unique and largely unprecedented examination of the struggles of refugees from the Nazi Holocaust and refugees from Southeast Asia – two seemingly disparate, yet vital elements of the Greater Hartford community. These groups have much more in common than would be expected: adapting to a new society while coping with the trauma of the past, the struggles of rebuilding life in the present, and the challenges of building community for the future, all while seeking to memorialize life before and during the trauma.
In April 2010, Steven Konover, Manola Sidara, owner of East-West Grille, and Howard Phengsomphone, executive director of the Lao Association of CT, approached the Greenberg Center with a dilemma. Thousands of Laotian refugees had relocated to the United States following persecution in the aftermath of the Secret War in Laos, but there was a growing concern in the Laotian community that their children and grandchildren would know little about the Laotian cultural heritage their parents and grandparents had carried with them before their arrival in the United States, or about their suffering at the hands of Communist oppression before their escape to this country. Konover, the son of a Holocaust survivor, suggested that perhaps the experiences of the Jewish community, and especially the efforts of the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors to document, teach, and learn about Jewish life in Europe before, during, and after the Holocaust, could serve as a useful template for the efforts of the Laotian community to preserve their cultural heritage. From this original suggestion emerged the idea for the exhibition.
The exhibition features photographs of three Holocaust survivors and their families and three Laotian refugees and their families by award-winning local photographer Lena Stein, with excerpts of their stories.
The experience of the Laotian community in America, many of whom came to the United States in the 1970s after experiencing the trauma of a war-torn country, persecution after the "Vietnam Evacuation" and in Communist "re-education camps," as well as the pain of having to leave their homeland as refugees, is a tale which is not well-known. Twenty-five years ago when some of the first refugees came to the Connecticut area, they did not speak about the traumatic circumstances of their flight and their attempt to begin again in the United States. As they begin to speak publicly about their pain and suffering, this exhibition and symposium will help them explore the trauma together with Holocaust refugees who went through this process more than 40 years ago.
This exhibition and the programs, the catalogue, and the filming of Laotian testimonies by students at the University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, and Central Connecticut State University will give both the Holocaust and Laotian refugees an opportunity to share their experiences with their children and grandchildren as well as the Connecticut public.
Students at the University of Hartford (Marc Ivins, Eric Maurer, Tommy Panyanouvong, and Cara Stoll), UCONN (Eric Thepsiri), and Central Connecticut State University (Ferris Phengsy) worked together with Professor Avinoam Patt in Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 to create this exhibition. Three Holocaust survivors and their descendants – Simon Konover and daughter, Jane Coppa; Margot Jeremias and grandson, Rabbi Daniel Loew; and Werner Loval and niece, Barbara Steinberger – as well as three Laotian refugees – Frank Mounemack and daughter, Windy Panyanouvong; Khamphong Souliyavong and son, Ferris Phengsy; and Vang (Somvang) Thepsiri and son, Eric Thepsiri, are featured in the exhibition. Additional interviews were conducted with Ruth "Tutti" Fishman and Edmund Rosianu (grandfather of Cara Stoll) as part of this project.
For more information, contact Avinoam Patt at the University's Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.768.4964.