Poems Of The Past: Sophie’s Role In Remembrance
For high school junior Sophie Levy, this isn’t just an excerpt from a poem she’s written; it’s a harrowing story of childhood, loss, love, and, most importantly, remembrance.
While Sophie, who now serves as the co-chair for the Teen Board at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH), penned these words, the story is not hers. It is that of Edith, a survivor of the Holocaust. And, this isn’t the only poem, the only story, this teenage writer has brought to life. Even though Sophie isn’t directly connected to the Holocaust and no one in her family are survivors, it hasn’t kept her from writing.
Her path to poetry started almost a decade ago, when she was in the third grade. “I remember loving the fact that there was a form of writing with no specific rule that had to be followed,” she said.“Poetry became — and still is — my main outlet and most creative way of expressing myself.”
Now, this 16-year-old isn’t only expressing herself, she’s telling the story of Holocaust survivors using her favorite form of writing.
What began two years ago, when she attended a five-day program, the Righteous Conversations Project, has catapulted this young writer and aspiring actress into a world where it has become her mission to ensure that these survivors’ stories don’t disappear.
While attending the program, something ignited in Sophie. She had one poignant experience with a survivor named Gabby. A young girl during the Holocaust, she hid with her family for an extended period of time in a man’s house that was not Jewish.
“She spoke of how difficult it was because she had to sit still all day doing absolutely nothing for months,” Sophie recalled. “However, the man who owned the house began bringing her books.”
Gabby began reading those books repeatedly, clinging to any new knowledge she could glean.
“[Gabby] told us that people can take away everything you have, every object you may own, but no one can ever take away what’s in your head,” said Sophie. “This was so inspiring to me, and made me value being able to learn at school everyday more than ever.”
That’s when she began to tell their stories.
“I felt so fortunate being able to talk to these inspiring individuals, and after this experience, I felt the need to write about their stories through poetry.”
So, she did.
But, her passion extended beyond that five-day program. This year, she accepted an internship with LAMOTH. This experience has allowed her to meet even more survivors and tell their stories.
For Sophie, creating these poems isn’t simply an exercise in writing, it is an obligation.
“We are the last generation who will get to hear [Holocaust survivor’s] stories first hand … and have the privilege of meeting them,” she explained. “It is up to us, especially the adolescents, to make sure their stories are passed on and the horrors of the Holocaust are not forgotten.”
In writing the poetry, Sophie realizes she is contributing to telling the stories of the survivors and helping to educate an entire generation of people who may have no other interaction with those who survived the atrocities of the Holocaust.
“I know it is important for teens like myself to talk about this event in our history so that it is not forgotten and we are able to learn from history’s mistakes,” she said. “By writing this poetry, I want to serve as an example to teens, younger and older than me, as someone who is contributing to remembering the Holocaust. This is so important, and by writing about this event in our history, I hope to spread the message that we cannot change what happened in our past, but we can make a better future.”
Today, Sophie’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink, on the Zachor Foundation website, as well as presented at the Los Angeles Museum of The Holocaust (LAMOTH) annual gala in 2015.
Sophie’s also a proud supporter of I-SHOUT-OUT, which echoes her beliefs. “The main mission is to prevent the world from forgetting about the Holocaust. This is so important of run to do and I admire that organizations like I-SHOUT-OUT exist and are making sure we , as a society, are able to learn from our past.”
To read more of Sophie’s poetry and other artists, please click here.