Chayela “Wunderkind” of the Vilna Ghetto exhibition opens

CTHGC Chairman Richard Freedman, Zola Piatka Shuman, Trustee Myra Osrin, Exhibition Designer Linda Bester and Lithuanian Ambassador H.E Dainius Junevičius

On June 18th, in partnership with the Lithuanian Embassy, the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre proudly opened the Chayela Rosenthal “Wunderkind” of the Vilna Ghetto exhibition to a capacity audience.

The esteemed Lithuanian ambassador, H.E. Dainius Junevičius, gave a profoundly moving address. Adding to the emotional atmosphere, Aviva Pelham, a close friend of Chayela both personally and professionally, delivered an inspiring and deeply heartfelt video message.

Among the many poignant moments of the evening, Chayela’s daughter, Zola, shared her personal reflections on the unique experience of growing up with two Holocaust survivor parents and the profound significance of this exhibition, which delved into the history of her family.

“20 years ago, on the 60th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto, my sister Naava brought my mother to life through her one-woman show, ‘Better Don’t Talk,’ in Vilna on the very same stage where our mother had performed as a 16-year-old. And now, here in Cape Town 80 years after the liquidation, through this exhibition, I have had the opportunity, with your help, to bring Chayela back to life.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a full public programme of lectures, screenings and concerts, focusing on the Jewish legacy of Vilna. For more information, please visit We hope to see you there!

July special events

Sunday 2 July, 6pm Better Don’t Talk
Screening of Naava Piatka’s internationally acclaimed musical performance piece about the remarkable life and times of her mother, Holocaust survivor and actress, Chayela.
To book email:

Wednesday 12 July, 6pm Film screening: The Paper Brigade
An award winning documentary that tells the moving story of the resistance group “The Paper Brigade”, a group of Jewish writers, scholars, and librarians who desperately tried to rescue Jewish cultural treasures in Vilnius during the Nazi occupation.
To book email:

Sunday 16 July, 6pm Rethinking Yiddish Theatre – now and then
Panel discussion: An overview of local Yiddish Theatre, Chayela Rosenthal’s contribution, and the influence still apparent today.
Panellists: Dr Veronica Belling, Joy Wilkin, Rudy Nadler-Nir, Aviva Pelham Moderated by: Philip Todres
To book email:

Sunday 30 July, 6pm Leah, Teddy and the Mandolin
The documentary film celebrating 10 years of the annual Leah Todres Yiddish Song Festival 2001 – 2010.
A story of warmth and spirit crossing generations and rekindling a special Yiddish spark in Cape Town.
To book email:

Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre:,

• Published in the July 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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