The faces that confront you in Norman Gershman’s photographs have seen suffering, experienced suffering. They are faces you look at and know, life has not been easy for them. At the same time, these portraits do not communicate bitterness, but rather extraodrinary warmth and pride etched in the lines of their faces. These are rescuers and their families from Albania, the only European country to have more Jews following the Holocaust than it did beforehand. In part that is because the pre-war Jewish population was comparitively small. But it makes it all the more remarkable that over 2,000 Jews, many fleeing from Austria, Greece and Italy were hidden in the homes of Albanian Muslims during the Nazi occupation that followed the Italian surrender to the Allies.
Tuesday, September 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, join photographer Norman Gershman for the opening of his exhibit, “Albanian Muslim Rescuers during the Holocaust” which is on-display in the Ina & Jack Kay Community Hall and the Harold and Barbara Berman JCC Cafe. The photographs are accompanied by oral history from the rescuers or their descendants of the incredible, individual acts of courage in a corner of the world where it might not have been expected. Central to their actions was the Albanian concept of “Besa” which very loosely translates to “faith and honor.” As the members of the Kazazi family put it, explaining the actions of their parents, “Our parents were not very religious, but they believed in the Koran and Besa. Without the Koran there is no Besa. Without Besa there is no Koran. For the heart there is no color of skin. No man or woman can forget God.”
The exhibit runs through November 30 in partnership with Theater J’s production of Honey Brown Eyes, which begins performances October 22.