Making sure silent voices wont be stilled

"Silent Voices Speak," an upcoming art exhibition and lecture series, gives voice to those who were hushed by the Holocaust. And in the most comprehensive Shoah exposition ever to come to San Francisco, its programs also examine social injustice today, bringing in speakers of all faiths and backgrounds.

In fact, what's remarkable about the program, which runs from April 1 to May 15 at the Hearst International Exhibition Hal, is that it's sponsored by 89 Bay Area organizations, Jewish and non-Jewish.

It brings together Jews on all sides of the spectrum to promote a common goal: ensuring that the stories — and images — of the most horrific event of the 20th century will never be forgotten.

In addition, it brings in such groups as the National Council of Negro Women to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which are also working to end continuing injustice and discrimination.

"Silent Voices Speak" is not simply another exhibition in a city that has hosted many stellar shows. It is a program designed to teach new generations about the events that are too often viewed as just another chapter in history.

It includes three major components: an exhibition of the works of Sonoma artist Barbara Shilo, who escaped from Europe in 1938; a photo exhibit on the "Righteous Diplomats" who rescued Jews and other refugees; and a 10-part lecture series that links the events of more than half-a-century ago to continuing examples of racism, hate and genocide.

Those components will ensure that the silent voices of victims everywhere will never be stilled.

Sadly, human rights abuses continue, not only in East Timor and Afghanistan but also in our own country. Programs such as "Silent Voices Speak" keep the stories of the past alive, bringing well-needed lessons to broad audiences.