The Passing of a Hero

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January 30

It was with great sadness that I just learned of the death of a woman I had the privilege of knowing for a just few short hours several years ago. Lani Silver cast a giant gleaming shadow and the world is definitely bereft without her. She lived the tenets of Judaism and was a ‘light to the nations’. Feeling that the survivors of the Holocaust had stories that needed to be told, both for the teller and the listener— experiences that should never be forgotten, she recorded thousand of life histories and inspired Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. She was able to see that, tragically, prejudice extends far beyond the history of the Jews and turned her skills as an oral historian to the US. She founded the James Byrd Jr Racism Oral History Project, when she discovered that no one else had interviewed the family of the father of 3 who was dragged to his death by whited supremacists in Jasper Texas, Texas in 1998. She then started interviewing Americans about racism in their lives. How appropriate for a woman whose consciousness was truly awakened by visiting apartheid South Africa when she was a teen. She did for Nazi Holocaust survivors in Europe and some of the victims of racism in the US what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission did in South AFrica.

I feel blessed to have been part of a workshop she lead at our Temple in San Luis Obispo and know how deeply she affected both the people she interviewed in our group as well as those who heard their stories. Rest in peace Lani, the world will miss you and you live on in my heart as a true inspiration.