RECALLING A LOST WORLD 
David Labkovski Brings the Stories of Sholem Aleichem to Life 

In partnership with

For artist David Labkovski, reading and illustrating the stories of Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem was a return to his own childhood in Vilna. He illustrated the small, everyday moments of life in the shtetl that Sholem Aleichem captured in his stories. Labkovski wanted to commemorate the Jewish ‘world that was’—not just how the Jewish people died, but how they lived for centuries before the Holocaust.

About the exhibition 

Holocaust Museum LA’s debut virtual exhibit in partnership with the David Labkovski Project showcases David Labkovski’s illustrated renditions of Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem’s tales. For the artist, reading and illustrating the stories was a return to his own childhood and a way to honor a once vibrant culture. Through his art, you’ll see Labkovski interpret the Eastern European Jewish ‘world that was’—not how Jewish people died, but how they lived for centuries before the Holocaust. In this exhibit you will meet Sholem Aleichem’s characters as they walk Shtetl streets, face daily challenges of oppression and poverty, and find small humor and joy despite the sorrow. The virtual exhibit invites interactive exploration and learning in a Museum Gallery, where it presents art, video, and testimony. 

About Sholem Aleichem

Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916), a leading Yiddish author often referred to as the “Jewish Mark Twain,” penned stories that portrayed daily Jewish life in late 19th and early 20th century Central and Eastern Europe. Aleichem’s celebrated tales of Tevye the Dairyman were the basis for the Tony award-winning musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” which debuted in 1964 and remains widely performed today.

About David Labkovski

 

David Labkovski (1906-1991) used oils, pencils and watercolor to capture Aleichem’s stories that resonated with his own stories of childhood before the Holocaust. Raised in Vilna, Lithuania, and subsequently imprisoned in a Siberian Gulag, he returned to his hometown after World War II to find a city and a Jewish community decimated by the war. Labkovski, wanting to commemorate the world that existed before the Nazis, looked to Aleichem as his muse. Although the two men never met, in capturing the stories and characters of Aleichem, Labkovski also captured his own childhood. 

Educational curriculum custom designed for this exhibit allow students in grades 4 and up to explore the artwork and learn about Jewish culture in a pre-Holocaust Europe. Worksheets implore students to think critically about art, history, and writing while catching curiosity through the vivid images of Labkovski's work. 

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