On Tuesday November 11, Hillel at George Mason University hosted its second annual Expressions of the Holocaust, a night honoring the survivors and victims of the Holocaust. The event focused on the Holocaust in Hungary, as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the German occupation of Hungary in World War II. The evening included a survivor panel, a one act play, the premiere of a mini documentary, and a dessert reception.
Students speak with survivors at the dessert reception following the program.
The event sold out with three hundred attendees, including students, faculty, staff, community members, and survivors. More than 100 student volunteers worked to make the night a success. Notable guests in attendance included 22 survivors, Congressman Gerry Connolly, Former Hungarian Ambassador to the US András Simonyi, and Rabbi Laszlo Berkowits, Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA.
The one-act play, Uniform, was written by Mason alumnus and playwright Aaron Sulkin. Featured in the 2014 DC Fringe Festival, Uniform is a fictional performance that involves three Jewish siblings hiding from the Nazis in Hungary. It is the story of keeping one’s humanity, in an inhumane time. Sulkin's story was featured in the Fairfax Times.
Ambassador Simonyi (right) stands on stage with the actors of Uniform and playwright Aaron Sulkin (third from right).
Premiering at the event, More Than A Memory is a documentary that was created by the Delta Kappa Alpha Cinematic Arts Fraternity. The short film includes interviews with local survivors, Mason students, and faculty regarding their perspectives for keeping the memory alive for future generations.
Additional highlights of the evening included: George Mason University’s Noteworthy Women’s A Capella sang Hatikvah and the Star Spangled Banner; Congressman Gerry Connolly read the names of survivors in attendance; and Rabbi Laszlo Berkowits shared his story of survival as a Hungarian Jew and how he became the founding rabbi of the largest synagogue in Virginia. Former Hungarian Ambassador to the US, Ambassador András Simonyi, gave personal reflections on the evening. He flew in early from his meetings with the new President of the EU in Warsaw to participate in the event. His family members are Jewish Hungarian Holocaust survivors.
Rabbi Laszlo Berkowits addresses the crowd.
George Mason Hillel is a recipient of the David and Fela Shapell Foundation grant administered through Hillel International. The grant is awarded to local Hillels for the purpose of supporting Holocaust remembrance activities on campus.
Photos by Sean Hickey Photography.