Documentary Explains The Butterfly Project – San Diego Jewish World

Posted By on June 3, 2021

By Jeffery Giesener

CARLSBAD, California Jan Landau started The Butterfly Project in 2006 at the San Diego Jewish Academy (SDJA). Jan had been inspired by the Holocaust poem The Butterfly. After World War 11, the butterfly became a symbol of hope for survivors, that there can be renewed life, that there can be hope and transformation.

Jan had also been inspired by a documentary film called Paper Clips, about a Holocaust memorial created in Whitwell, Tennessee where students learn about the Holocaust and try to quantify the staggering number of six million Jews that were murdered in the Shoah. They committed to collecting one paper clip for each of the six million people who perished during the Holocaust. They wrote letters to individuals all over America to ask for paper clips while also getting their entire community of only 1,600 people involved. Whitwell is a tiny southern town in Tennessee with zero Jews, only four Blacks and one Hispanic.

Today more than 20 years from the inception of the project over 30 million paper clips have been collected in Whitwell. The fact that this community of only 1,600 members would conceive, create and execute a Holocaust educational project that would reach the level of support from around the world is a testament to Linda Hooper who at the start of their project in 1998 was the Middle School principal. The Paper Clips Project ended up receiving paper clips from all over the world, filling an actual Holocaust rail car with 11 million paperclips representing the six million Jews, along with 5 million Romas, homosexuals, political prisoners, and other victims of the Holocaust. The rail car and the Paper Clips Museum stand as a permanent memorial in the Whitwell Middle School schoolyard.

Cheryl Rattner Price, a ceramics artist, was SDJAs artist-in-residence at the time when Jan approached her about doing a project at first for only the SDJA. The lessons of The Butterfly Project are not scary, and they do not shut kids down in the awful way that Cheryl said her generation was taught about the Holocaust. The Butterfly Project creates a way to teach children about the history of the Holocaust in a way that lets them feel hope. Lets them feel that prejudice, hate, and bullying can be overcome.

The Butterfly Project database of biographical cards is one of the largest databases detailing photos and tributes of Jewish children lost in the Shoah.

Beth Licha, the projects database program manager, together with Holocaust survivors and their descendants created lasting tributes to those innocent children, who were so cruelly struck down by hatred and bigotry. Beth said that throughout the process, I have learned the stories of our families and have developed new and meaningful connections with people from around the world. Although researching the details needed for their biographies has been emotionally taxing for all involved, there is great comfort in knowing that those young lives will be remembered through the thousands of students who will read their biographies and paint butterflies in their honor.

As well, its gratifying to family members to know that the biographies will act as truly impactful examples for students to learn about the real dangers of bullying, bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination. Hopefully inspiring those students to become Upstanders for justice.

So many of the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust had no surviving relatives or friends to tell their story, so it is very powerful to know that each child Holocaust victim for whom we create a The Butterfly Project biography card will now stand as a lasting ambassador to represent the thousands of other child Holocaust victims for whom we have no biographies.

Jan, Cheryl, and the dedicated Holocaust education team at The Butterfly Project also have created lectures that teach and educate youth through adult audiences the lessons of #NeverAgain, anti-bullying, and the hateful bias of prejudice.

During 2020/2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, all of The Butterfly Projects lesson plans were digitized giving the organization the ability to educate on a global level. This is a significant advantage moving forward as The Butterfly Project has the ability to educate and teach using ZOOM and leverage other digital educational tools to electronically deliver Holocaust education to any school or organization anywhere in the world.

The whole team at The Butterfly Project fell in love with the process of helping to educate Jews and non-Jews alike while using the creative arts to spread butterfly memorials to many parts of the world. The connection between the butterfly, the creative arts, and the importance of sharing #neveragain education enables each of us in our very own individual way to express ourselves in a subject matter that is deeply personal to all of us, Cheryl and Jan continue. Youre breaking childrens hearts when you share what happened in the Holocaust and its many tragic family stories. Children feel powerless, hopelessness and extreme sadness.

The quintessential idea that gives The Butterfly Project both its universal positive and motivational appeal is the use of the symbol of a singular butterfly, the hope it represents, and joining this imagery to that experienced voice (s) that individuals can make a difference by being an Up Stander when somebody else is being hurtful.

The Butterfly Project through it newly created digital lesson plans and its new technology enhancements with the help of its many donors and sponsors are now enabling valuable Holocaust education to be delivered directly into the classroom through the use of the Internet.

California and 18 other states now require Holocaust education as part of their secondary school curricula.

As one student says in Not The Last Butterfly: I learned that if I dont do anything, then nothing will change.

It makes us so motivated. Its so important. We need to help our young generation to know everything they can about Holocaust history and learn when we come together around a common idea, we can not only honor and pay tribute to those lost but also change lives.

Rattner Price calls herself an obsessive photographer and since 2006 has documented every step of The Butterfly Project through photos and video from the installation at SDJA using boxes of ceramic butterflies received from all over the country and world, The Butterfly Project has spread the project to schoolchildren, overseeing Holocaust education and art installations in many communities both domestically and abroad.

All of these cities are now teaching the lessons of the Holocaust while also memorializing the memory of the 1.5 million Jewish children lost in the Shoah. Cheryl continues I felt responsible to share those stories. As a mosaic artist, I collect bits and pieces and keep everything and thats how I started making the documentary film Not The Last Butterfly.

She noted one particularly moving experience of filming the education and installation butterflies installed at a school in Warsaw, Poland. As an artist, I got in way over my head, not realizing how difficult it is to make a documentary film.

Featured in Not The Last Butterfly, is the story of 86-year-old Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger. While an inmate in the Terezin Concentration Camp in the Czech Republic, Weissberger remembered a teacher, Friedl Dicker-Brandies, who inspired the children to express their pain and deal with the shock and trauma of the camp through secret art projects.

The filmmakers were able to take Weissberger back to Terezin, where she left a butterfly in memory of Friedl Dicker-Brandies, who helped thousands of children at Terezin before being transferred and then murdered at Auschwitz.

To viewNot the Last Butterflyin its entirety, email for the password.

*Jeffery Giesener, former CEO of SourceMob, has both public and private company experience. Today, retired and enjoying life in Carlsbad, hes a freelance writer who has a passion for both cinema and baking his Moms (Of Blessed Memory) European recipes.

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Documentary Explains The Butterfly Project - San Diego Jewish World

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