By MICHAEL C. DUKE | JHV
An eighth-grader from Robert M. Beren Academy won first place in a national Holocaust memorial art competition.
Tchelet Carmel created a portrait of a German-born child survivor of the Holocaust who, shortly before becoming a Bar Mitzvah, was placed on a kindertransport to British Mandate Palestine.
As Eliahu Michelsohn departed, his father gave him a 15-page letter as a tzava’ah – last will and testament – intended to guide him through life. Michelsohn’s letter was one of half-a-dozen different items, belonging to child survivors, that students, today, were asked to reflect upon, either in writing or through visual art, for the 2017 Amud Aish Memorial Museum-Kleinman Holocaust Education Center’s Visual Arts & Literacy Contest.
Carmel fashioned a portrait of Michelsohn from a collage of Hebrew and English newspaper text clippings. Her art was awarded the top prize in the competition, whose theme this year was “Born to Live.”
“I relate to the Michelsohn letter story,” said the Beren eighth-grader, who is a descendant of Holocaust survivors and will be moving back to Israel with her family this summer.
“He was a normal boy, who loved sports,” Carmel said. “He actually was going to go to the  Youth Olympics, but he was denied because he was Jewish.
“He was about the same age that I am when he was put on the kindertransport,” she said.
Carmel was able to read portions of the Michelsohn letter, which was written in German, along with blessings penned in Hebrew. In the letter, Michelsohn’s father urges his young son, bound for Eretz Yisrael, to be self-reliant.
He also tells his son: “Be happy and cheerful in life and when life is not so good to you, be sure to be twice as happy, and don’t let yourself be deprived of everything nor let yourself be put down by anything.”
The father adds: “Listen to your teachers and masters, who are building you for the future, and learn from them whatever you can.”
After reading the Michelsohn letter, an idea immediately came to Carmel’s mind, she said. The Beren student knew she wanted to create a portrait of the child, accompanied by lines of text. After discussing the idea with her mother, Emuna, herself an accomplished artist, Carmel chose to compose her portrait of Michelsohn from lines of text.
Alternating between clippings from Israeli and American newspapers, Carmel selected words and phrases that relate to Michelsohn’s story.
“Of all the different lines, the one that resonates most with me is one that reads: ‘If it was just another child,’ ” Carmel told the JHV.
According to scholars, 1.5 million children were killed in the Holocaust. By choosing six items that belonged to children who were forced to leave their homes to escape Nazi persecution, organizers of the AAMM-KHEC Visual Arts & Literacy Contest sought to portray the Holocaust through the eyes of children who survived.
“Artifacts and letters are preserved and accessible, giving us insight into the fragility of their worlds and the potential of each and every individual,” organizers stated in the guidelines. “We present this program as a memory to the children who were murdered during the Holocaust and as a means to inspire [students] to fulfill the potential in their own lives.”
Compared to other Holocaust memorial art projects that Carmel has made at school, she said her Michelsohn letter portrait felt “more personal.”
“When I’ve done other assignments, we’ve had to focus more on someone’s entire biography,” she said. “This project was much more specific and allowed me to connect with a particular part of a survivor’s life through something that was really important to him.