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Holocaust Survivor Dr. Erica Miller Inspires Our Community with 'Guts, Grit, and Gusto' and the David Labkovski Project Highlights History Through Art During Special Visit to Viewpoint
Holocaust Survivor Dr. Erica Miller Inspires Our Community with 'Guts, Grit, and Gusto' and the David Labkovski Project Highlights History Through Art During Special Visit to Viewpoint

In commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan. 27), Viewpoint welcomed special guests Dr. Erica Miller, a Holocaust survivor, and Leora Raiki, Executive Director of the David Labkovsky Project, to share their inspirational stories at student assemblies and an evening event on Wednesday, January 31.

VSSA’s Parent Education committee collaborated with Viewpoint’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Life to present meaningful and memorable opportunities throughout the day for our students, employees, parents, and guardians. In between assemblies, the executive board of our Jewish Student Union (JSU) and their faculty advisor Mr. Justin Yaeger, participated in a meet-and-greet and Q&A with Dr. Erica Miller in our Black Box Theater (BBC).

Each assembly and the evening event began with a moment of silence in honor of Holocaust survivor David Lenga, who visited Viewpoint in 2023, and passed away at age 95 in late January of this year. Next, audiences learned about the David Labkovsky Project (DLP), an educational initiative centered around Labkovski's extensive body of work, comprising over 400 pieces, vividly portraying 500 years of Jewish life before the Holocaust and documenting his experiences as a Siberian prisoner. Representing the project, Leora Raikin, Labkovski's great niece and Executive Director of the organization, shared valuable insights into the artist's legacy and the mission of the David Labkovsky Project.

“The people you see in this picture are my great grandparents, their daughter Zata, and twin five-and-a-half-year-old boys in 1941 when the Germans and the Nazis invaded, forcing them out of their home into the ghetto,” said Raikin. “David Labkovski wanted you not just to know how people died during the Holocaust but how they lived, loved, and were ordinary everyday people.”

Nia Blumenfield '24 received acknowledgment as one of the first graduates of the Student Docent & Leadership Program by DLP. After completing training, student docents like Nia have the opportunity to curate exhibits, educate visitors about the Holocaust, and earn community service hours.

To culminate each event, Dr. Erica Miller took the stage to share her experience as a Holocaust survivor. At 90 years old, Dr. Miller embodies the mantra of “Guts, Grit, and Gusto,” a philosophy she passionately encouraged our community to adopt.

"Life is a continuous gift, unfolding in chapters. While many of you, the youngest in this group, have four more chapters ahead, I find myself in the last chapter. I did some research and discovered someone lived to 122, so who knows, I might aim for 123 and make it into the Guinness Book of Records," said Miller.

Yet behind her infectious personality and free spirit lies a history of resilience. At the age of seven, she and her family were among thousands of Jews herded into cattle cars during the Holocaust.

"Between the ages of seven and eleven, I recall a four-year period spent in a closed holding camp in Transnistria, Makariv, Ukraine,” said Miller. “Liberation finally came from the Russians, who arrived after what felt like an endless wait."

Despite facing adversity, Dr. Miller pursued education, earning a PhD in Clinical Psychology and establishing mental health clinics throughout Los Angeles and Orange County, which she ran for more than 30 years. Her concluding message to students: “never let challenges hold you back.”

"The possibilities are limitless. Obstacles are a handicap,” said Miller. “To the young ones, I'm thrilled for you as you embark on life's journey. Don't let others dictate what you should or shouldn't be doing."

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