Tribute to Fran Eizenstat: Reprinted from the Lincoln Center playbill
This is Fran Eizenstat’s evening. Without her vision, determination and inspirational leadership, there would be no benefit concert tonight, nor would there be the innovative collaboration between The Defiant Requiem Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York and Selfhelp Community Services to assist elderly, needy Holocaust survivors to live in greater dignity.
This event helps fulfill Fran’s commitment to use Murry Sidlin’s powerful concert-drama to raise recognition of the courage of Jewish prisoners at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The lessons of Defiant Requiem illustrate how the human spirit can overcome oppression, and tonight’s concert serves as a vehicle to increase awareness of the plight of elderly Holocaust Survivors whose cause Fran championed around the world. Her passion for helping survivors was part of a lifetime’s effort to help the disadvantaged, in both her professional career and remarkable volunteer activities.
Fran and I first saw Defiant Requiem in June 2009, in the Czech town of Terezín, the site of the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt, as the closing ceremony to the 47-Nation Prague Holocaust Era Assets Conference.
We were so moved that Fran urged me to tell Maestro Sidlin that we wanted to bring his masterpiece to the Kennedy Center, so our nation’s leaders could absorb its compelling message about Jewish courage and defiance. So began our relationship with the Defiant Requiem Foundation, on whose board we both served, and on which we worked together virtually every day until Fran’s tragic passing.
Fran’s leadership was indispensable to the spectacular success at the Kennedy Center, with the entire bipartisan, bicameral congressional leadership serving as honorary sponsors. Fran’s personal efforts made this an ecumenical event, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops serving as a sponsor, and then-Archbishop, now Cardinal Dolan, of New York attending. Over 200 survivors attended free of charge.
Fran inspired us to take the Defiant Requiem around the world, to enthusiastic, overflow audiences from Budapest and Jerusalem to Atlanta and Baltimore, with Prague and Berlin coming up. With the support of Allan and Shelley Holt and others, she helped complete the award-winning documentary Defiant Requiem, shown nationwide on PBS on April 7, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Her fervent wish was to bring Defiant Requiem to Lincoln Center in New York, with a special mission: to use the concert as a vehicle to help survivors in New York, the city with the largest number of survivors in the U.S.
Meetings with Lincoln Center’s president, Reynold Levy, and then with John Ruskay, the gifted CEO of UJA Federation of New York, sealed an agreement to make this concert a benefit for UJA’s Holocaust Survivor Initiative.
Sadly, Fran is not here to witness her dream come true, but due to the dedicated help of Federation staff and the great support of our co-chairs, Bill Ackman, Carol Levin, and Patti AskwithKenner, Fran’s vision is a reality.
The memory of her effervescent smile, warmth, kindness, compassion and courage in confronting her own medical challenges, and devotion to helping Holocaust Survivors are very much with us. Fran was a Woman of Valor, a role model of a successful, selfless woman, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend to everyone who met her around the world.
Fran, we dedicate this evening to you, my wonderful, loving wife of 45 years, just as you had wanted it, for the benefit of needy Holocaust Survivors.
Stuart E. Eizenstat
Chairman, Defiant Requiem Foundation
April 29, 2013