Noa Kirel, Neta Alchimister, and Maya Wertheimer are just a few famous Israeli performers, actors, and influencers whose names wouldn’t immediately come to mind when talking about Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust survivors.
Yet, they and over a dozen other Israeli celebrities and content creators are banding together this week with Facebook Israel and Israeli NGO Latet to launch a special project called “Sharing Memories” (Ma’alim Zikaron in Hebrew), with the aim of giving a voice and a platform to the heroic stories of Holocaust survivors.
The celebs will tap into their respective followings on Instagram with the important message on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day this week — the memory of the Holocaust should not be forgotten.
The project will begin at sundown on Wednesday, April 7 when Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel begins and end 24 hours later. During this time, over 20 celebrities and creators will use their Instagram Stories to connect Holocaust survivors to the younger generation and inspire them to think earnestly about the plight of these survivors and become more socially involved in preserving their memory.
The digital assets of these public figures, who have a cumulative audience of millions, will provide a significant platform for Holocaust survivors and will allow their voices to be heard in the reality of a vanishing generation, Facebook Israel and Latet said in a joint statement.
The project also strives to raise awareness about the living conditions of many Holocaust survivors in Israel who live below the poverty line and raise donations and funds to help them live out the rest of their lives in dignity.
“We realize that the number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling and soon we will not have the opportunity to hear their stories first hand,” Maayan Sarig, head of communications at Facebook Israel, tells NoCamels. “We also realize that social media platforms give a voice to billions of people. Seeing as most Holocaust survivors are not present on digital platforms, we wanted to grat them that same power, and allow them to speak up and share their importance and inspiring stories — in the same direct manner.”
According to data from Latet, the Israeli non-profit that provides for the basic needs of populations living in poverty and food insecurity, about 176,000 Holocaust survivors currently live in Israel. Last year, about 17,000 survivors passed away, 900 of whom died of COVID-19.
For the project, the public figures visited the homes of Holocaust survivors around the country and took part in an intimate and moving dialogue with them, where they described stories of childhood, bravery, heroism, and the importance of preserving the memory of the Holocaust. The meetings were documented and will be uploaded as Instagram Stories by each participant to their personal accounts on Wednesday night at the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The 20 leading artists, content creators, and influencers enlisted for this project include Kirel, a wildly popular Israeli singer and actress with a following of 1.1 million on Instagram followers; model and swimwear designer Neta Alchimister (1.7 million followers); influencer and skincare brand rep Liel Eli (405K followers); fitness guru Sher Fitness (385K followers); model and actress Reef Neeman (360k followers); actress, model, and TV presenter Maya Wertheimer (339k followers); actor, video blogger, and comedian Kevin Rubin (298k followers); chef Daniel Amit (284k followers); journalist and presenter Maayan Adam (237k followers); actor and model Omer Dror (209k followers); actor and food photographer Gal Zahavi (145k followers); Israel Hayom media and entertainment correspondent Eran Swissa (139k followers); television host, actress, and model Yael Goldman (137k followers); actress Amit Farkash (135k followers); morning show host Noa Rosin (50.1k followers); radio host Hadar Marks (42k followers); actor and television host Aki Avni (40.5k followers); plus-size model and podcast host Ray Segev (39.5k followers); singer Kobi Aflalo (38.8k followers); and Yedioth Ahronot media and music correspondent Raz Shechnik (27.2k followers).
Israeli triple threat (actress, singer, influencer) Kirel will feature 90-year-old Polish-born Holocaust survivor Esther Rusk in her Instagram story. Rusk lived in the Warsaw ghetto for two years before fleeing to nearby villages where she pretended to be an orphaned Christian girl.
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Alchimister, the Bananhot swimwear founder and designer and social media star, will spotlight the story of 83-year-old, Ukraine-born Larissa Litvak. When war broke out, Litvak and her family fled to Uzbekistan.
“This coming Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am participating in a very important activity run by the organization Latet with Facebook. I’m arriving to Larissa’s house to hear her story and everything she went through. It will be very interesting,” she said in a promo video (Hebrew.)
“I’m going to meet Ida, a charming Holocaust survivor, and we’re going to hear her story,” Reef Neeman said in her video for the project. The Israeli actress, who had lead roles in popular Israeli TV series Shtisel and Fauda, will appear with 85-year-old Ida Rashkovitz, who was born in Ukraine and was just five years old when war broke out. Her mother and brother were murdered in World War II. Rashkovitz survived by fleeing to her grandparents’ house.
“I’m now going up to see Yossi, he’s a Holocaust survivor in need,” said Israeli actor Omer Dror on his way to meet 91-year-old Joseph Schultz, who was born in Hungary and lived with his family in the Budapest ghetto, which he would often flee to look for food.
“I’m going to listen to his story and this is how I can understand what the situation is for the needy [like him] in Israel,” Dror said in the promo video.
“The link between content creators, Holocaust survivors, and a platform like Instagram may seem unconventional, perhaps even unnatural,” says Sarig. “However, we felt that this would be the best way to communicate the heroic stories of survivors to the younger generation while preserving their authenticity.”
“Our mission is more crucial now than ever and we must empower this generation to carry on the memory of the Holocaust,” she adds.
“The tragic idea of ‘a generation slowly vanishing’ is becoming more tangible than ever, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the events of the Holocaust are never forgotten,” said Facebook Israel head Adi Soffer-Teeni in a statement. “During an age where social networks have become hubs for promoting social initiatives, we understand that in order to reach the younger generation and make these concepts accessible to them, we must think differently, and therefore chose to take an active part in preserving the legacy and heroism of the Holocaust for the next generation.”
“I recently spoke with Zvi, one of the Holocaust survivors who agreed to share his story as part of the ‘Sharing Memories’ project,” said Tzahi Langer, Latet’s VP of marketing. “One of Zvi’s statements will remain forever etched in my memory: ‘We have gone through the worst of all, worse than anything a person can imagine, but the fact that there are still Holocaust survivors in our country living in poverty is shameful.’”
We need to remember them not only during Holocaust Remembrance Day, but throughout the year and do them justice,” said Langer.