June 18, 2024
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June 18, 2024
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The Slotkin Mengele Twins: Remembering Rene Slotkin

It was with great sorrow that we learned of Rene Slotkin’s, z”l, passing in the summer of 2022. After reading the wonderful article about him featured in this past week’s edition of The Jewish Link, so many beautiful memories were brought back for our students and ourselves. During the school year of 2018-2019, the 12th grade students of the Torah Academy of Bergen County Holocaust Studies class and their instructors met with and got to know Rene Slotkin and his story of survival intimately. During the course of not only interviewing him, but actually “stepping into his shoes” by recreating moments of his life before a standing room only audience, including Rene and his wife, June Slotkin, we were able to pass on his story to an entirely new generation.

Our year-long Bare Witness project, unlike other schools’ Holocaust projects, gives new life to the survivors’ stories, and creates an entire new group of living “witnesses,” who will be able to carry their stories into the future. The Bare Witness project in TABC is unique, as it bridges the gap between a Holocaust history class and a dramatic production. After our students meet with survivors and hear their stories, which always has an incalculable impact, they have the opportunity to process all their feelings while working collaboratively and creating scripted scenes of their stories, with the aim of bringing them to life on the stage. The students thereby “own” their learning; it is very personal, and it becomes part of who they are.

As Rene and the other survivors whose stories we featured watched scenes from their lives portrayed by our students, their reactions were indescribable. At the conclusion of the production, when Rene and the others were brought onto the stage, the audience had an opportunity to ask their own questions and hear responses directly from the survivors. Everyone who was part of this ensemble and this project will carry Rene and Irene’s incredible story of survival in their hearts forever, and will certainly tell and retell it well into the future. We promised that to Rene in the spring of 2019, when the entire group visited with him while he was sitting shiva for Irene.

Avi Baer, the ensemble member who portrayed Rene in our production, has said more than once, “the Holocaust Studies class changed my life.” Proof positive of that for all of us is that within hours of reading the article in The Jewish Link, several class members reached out to us in response. The Bare Witness project is so much more than a documentary; it’s a labor of love that personalizes the stories for each student, leaving an indelible mark to last a lifetime and an understood commitment to spread the stories even further because everyone who hears a witness, becomes a new witness.

We invite the entire community to join us in TABC on Thursday evening, April 20, at the premiere of Bare Witness 2023, when the stories of yet another four survivors are brought to life. This is our response to Holocaust deniers, a way to guarantee that no one will ever forget, thus ensuring that “Never Again” isn’t just an empty slogan.

Mrs. Cary Reichardt, TABC History Dept. Chairperson, creator of Bare Witness
Mrs. Rebecca Lopkin, TABC Director of Performing Arts, co-creator of Bare Witness
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