Manhattan Beach nursing home's art exhibit helps Holocaust survivors cope with memories

The Menorah Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing director says art is a powerful tool to help patients with dementia express themselves in a non-verbal way.

News 12 Staff

Jul 13, 2023, 11:33 PM

Updated 366 days ago


A Manhattan Beach nursing home is using art to help Holocaust survivors cope with their memories.
The exhibit is at the Menorah Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care.
Zelda Oversky was a young woman in 1941 when German soldiers attacked the Soviet Union. She lost her brother, who saved her and her sister's life.
Being fluent in German and Russian helped her stay alive through the war. During the war, she translated for Russian soldiers.
Now at 101 years old, her memory is fading, but thanks to art therapy, pieces of her past are coming back to life.
"A lot of people have memories that are tucked away or things that they want to talk about but aren't really able to express in the way that we are," says Dr. Kendra Ray, director of the dementia program at the center.
She says art is a powerful tool to help patients with dementia express themselves in a non-verbal way.
"We know that it helps them relax, it helps them to feel more motivated, it gives them meaning in their lives on a daily basis," Ray says.
For those who have experienced atrocities like the Holocaust, researchers say creating art can be an especially beneficial way to cope with the horrific memories when they resurface.
"While they're well enough, they're able to compartmentalize. But as they get older and frailer, have dementia or any other kind of illness, those filters are not as strongly in place," says Toby Wiess, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She is also the assistant vice president of cultural diversity for MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care.
She says exhibits like this are an important part of the legacy of one of the darkest times in human history.
"We're not looking at the scars, and the damage and the hurt, and the pain. We're looking at the hope, we're looking at the resilience, we're looking at beauty," Weiss adds.

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