The Robert H. Jackson Center hosted Living Voices on June 16, 2016, a Seattle-based performing arts organization that performs across the United States, offering captivating shows that are paired with music, video and pictures. The program was made possible through a generous grant from the The Blossom Fund at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.
Living Voices member Elizabeth Rainer performed two different shows, offering a Q&A to the students following each performance. One of the performances was titled “Island of Hope,” and is about a young Jewish ten-year-old named Leah who is living at the turn of the 20th century under the Czars, and dreams of getting an education like her brothers throughout her story
After her brother defects from the Czar army, Leah and her parents flee to the U.S. for a new life. Upon arriving at Ellis Island, she alone is detained in a medical center when she fails the eye inspection, faced with fears that she may be sent back to Russia alone. Despite her fears, Leah is released after her recovery, eventually even being able to receive the education she had desired.
The other Living Voices performance about Anne Frank, titled “Through the Eyes of a Friend,” was a devastating story told by a composite character named Sarah Weis. Sarah’s story carries from when Anne and Sarah first became friends after moving to Holland to escape the Nazis, and ends with the aftermath of Anne’s tragic death. When the Nazis invade Holland, the Franks disappear and Sarah’s family is soon divided and sent into hiding. She hides in a basement for two years before she is discovered and sent to Westerbork, where she is reunited with Anne and the rest of the Franks. They are later sent to Auschwitz, and then Bergen-Belsen.
They are separated from Anne’s mother and father, and Anne and her sister become ill. Anne’s sister becomes so weak at Bergen-Belsen that she dies from a fall. Anne is separated from Sarah, and a nurse reports to her one day that Anne has died. Sometime later, the camp is liberated and Sarah eventually encounters Anne’s father, who gives her a copy of Anne’s diary. Although Sarah doesn’t want to think of all she endured, she finds herself unable to forget, and learns the importance of letting her friend live on in her memory.
Actress Elizabeth Rainer said that as the generation of veterans who lived through the war begins to pass away, it is crucial to capture and remember their stories. She tied this concept to her presentation of “Island of Hope,” as well, encouraging students to ask their family members to share their stories of immigration to the United States.
The Jackson Center is committed to fostering an awareness of Justice Jackson’s life and work as it helps subsequent generations better understand how the nation and world have evolved their understanding of justice. His legacy can help guide the world toward a continuously improved civil society by appreciating the depth of his advocacy for fairness and justice.