Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Top 20 Under 40: Jody Spiegel

Spiegel is the Director of the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program and International Coordinator of the International Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Azrieli Foundation

By: Zak Edwards

Published: February 17th, 2014 in News » World

Shalom Life is proud to present our 4th annual Top 20 Under 40 list. Over the next 20 days, we will showcase 20 individuals of diverse talents and backgrounds that have made a significant contribution to their field both locally and globally. From entrepreneurs to philanthropists, entertainers to doctors, this list places a spotlight on a small sampling of the spectacular, innovative, and passionate Jews that call Toronto home.

Top 20 Under 40 – Jody Spiegel

Age: 35

This past decade, the Holocaust has entered a strange period. On the one hand, technology can help us change how we engage and distribute testimonies and accounts of the Shoah, but at that same time those who survived are passing away. The event is over 70 years in the past, yet shapes so much of our history and our world.

For Jody Spiegel, how we gather and keep Holocaust testimonials and how we engage with people about the events is a daily challenge.

Spiegel is the head of the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program, a foundation dedicated to preserving and distributing published materials on the Holocaust, and her success can be seen in the many services the Foundation provides. Spiegel has been using technology to anticipate how we can educate and keep the lessons we can learn from the Holocaust in the present and future.

I had the amazing opportunity to talk with Spiegel about her job, her life, and what it means to look at the Holocaust in the 21st century.

Shalom Life: How did you come to be involved with the Azrieli Foundation?

Jody Spiegel: Eight years ago, I thought I wanted to help people and I was going to do that in law. I left the legal world for the world of Holocaust education and never looked back. If we don’t share these accounts of survival, they will be lost to us forever.

Shalom Life: What is the Azrieli Foundation? What do you do for them?

Jody Spiegel: The Azrieli Foundation is a Canadian philanthropic organization that supports a wide range of initiatives and programs in the fields of education, architecture and design, community, Holocaust commemoration and education, scientific and medical research, and the arts.

As the Director of the Foundation’s Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program, the job of my team is to get the inspiring, beautifully written books we publish into the hands of educators, librarians, and the general reader. Each story of survival is so tremendously different and it’s my job to remind people of that.

Shalom Life: As we move further away from the Holocaust, some of the greatest challenges are preserving the memories of the survivors; what are some effective strategies that people are doing to preserve these testimonies?

Jody Spiegel: The power of written first-hand accounts in Holocaust education and in transmitting the history and memory of the Holocaust in a way that combines knowledge with emotion and empathy is irreplaceable. It’d be nice to think that books are forever, but we’ve recognized the need to do more. What really matters though, is ensuring that these testimonies are used in a way that engages and speaks to future generations and is able shape how they see and interact with the world.

Understanding the need for more, I’ve also been acting as Executive Producer of the Azrieli Series of Short Films. Sitting with the author/survivor and hearing the reasons behind why he or she wrote, the lessons they want to pass to future generations… it’s all in their memoirs, but these days some people will only give a moment to watch a short film. Hopefully, once they watch the short, a person will take the time and respect to read the survivor’s memoir. Teachers also love the films for their classrooms.

Tenuous Threads – Judy Abrams -Azrieli Series Short Films from The Azrieli Series Short Films on Vimeo


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