By Jessie Sigler
At the Boston Jewish Film Festival in November, the Jewish Studies Program cosponsored a screening of the documentary Big Sonia at the West Newton Cinema. Big Sonia tells the extraordinary story of Holocaust survivor Sonia Warshawski, who’s petite in physical stature – but that’s the only thing small about her. Sonia has a big voice and a big impact on her community, sharing her story of survival with everyone from high school students to convicts looking to turn their lives around. The film centers around her tailor shop, which the 91-year-old Sonia continues to run in a deserted Kansas mall, until she receives an eviction notice that threatens her beloved business. Sonia is astonishing in her positivity. Despite the horrors she witnessed in multiple concentration camps, she never stops moving forward; the “Optimist’s Creed” is displayed next to her sewing machine. Sonia’s Holocaust story is told throughout the film using a series of artful animations, though the most powerful parts of the film are where Sonia speaks directly about her experiences. The film also examines the impact of Sonia’s experiences on her children, who speak about how they always knew something was very different in their home, even before they knew their mother’s story. Later in life, one of her daughters came to embrace Sonia’s story and now helps Sonia speak about her experiences to the community. After the film, Professor Lori Lefkovitz led a lively audience discussion focused on the topic of descendants of survivors and the ways in which they feel responsible for the stories of their parents and grandparents.
Jessie Sigler, a third year Computer Engineering student with minors in Jewish Studies and History, is now on co-op in Israel.
Read the rest of the Spring 2018 Haverim newsletter here: