Alumna Carly Joseph (Heilicher ‘17) is on a mission to educate people about what happened in the Holocaust. Her mission is born from years of solid Jewish education at Heilicher, experience in theater performance, and a deeply held belief that “Never Again” should mean “Never Again.”
ORIGINS OF A THEATER PROJECT
While a junior at St. Louis Park High School, Carly and her friend Abby Anderson co-wrote and co-directed a play based on Abby’s great-grandmother’s life story. The new play, entitled The Only Star I Remember, chronicles the life of Esther (Reicher) Begam, who was the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust. Esther is currently 92 years old and resides in Golden Valley, Minnesota.
As freshmen, Carly and Abby participated in the Witness Theater Project that brought Jewish teens together with Holocaust survivors to create a new play based on personal stories of the Shoah.
“Witness Theater was an incredible experience that put me in awe of these brave survivors,” Carly explained. “This made me want to hear as many stories as possible, especially as the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles.”
The Only Star I Remember became a year-long labor of love that involved many new and daunting tasks. Carly and Abby spearheaded all aspects of the production, including writing the script, casting the show, securing funding, and pitching their idea to the Board of Directors of Blue Water Theatre, a Wayzata youth theater company where Carly has often performed. The play received rave reviews for late-January performances at Blue Water Theatre.
HOLOCAUST EDUCATION SEMINARS
Carly felt an urgency to get the word out about the lessons of the Holocaust. “Holocaust education is so important, especially now that anti-semitism is becoming more prevalent,” she said. In order to provide Holocaust education for the cast and crew, Carly enlisted the help of former Heilicher Associate Head of School Helen Siegel to coordinate a speaker series leading up to the production.
“Carly has always been a natural leader,” recalled Helen, who retired after 27 years at Heilicher. “She is a self-advocate with a positive and lively personality. She gets things done.” Helen, herself a child of Holocaust survivors, was delighted to help bring Carly and Abby’s vision to fruition through four two-hour Holocaust education sessions for the cast, crew, and extended Blue Water Theatre community.
HEILICHER EDUCATION AS A LAUNCHING PAD
Carly credits her K-8 education at Heilicher as significant to shaping her into the person she is today. She looks back fondly on her years in the seventh- and eighth-grade plays, which were some of her most memorable theater experiences. She also enjoyed the small class sizes that allowed her to know her teachers well.
“I loved how we could delve into topics we were curious about and learn as much as possible,” she recalled. She remembers how Hebrew teacher BatSheva Berman made language learning fun and accessible.
“My Hebrew language skills and knowledge about Israel came into play in a big way when I went on the Alexander Muss High School in Israel summer program,” Carly noted. Heilicher’s Holocaust education also had a profound impact on Carly. As for core values, Carly believes they were so important for her Jewishly and as a guidepost for how to live life in general. In the future, Carly hopes to earn a bachelor of fine arts degree and perhaps live in New York City someday. She hopes to be able to produce her play in other venues in the future as well.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY
When asked what she hopes theatergoers will take away from the experience of her play, Carly offered: “My hope is that audiences will gain a respect for the gravity of what happened. Even more importantly, I want them to leave the theater understanding that even small acts of kindness can make a big difference.”