The Letters Project: A Daughter's Journey, with Eleanor Reissa

Recorded Live Via Zoom on January 20, 2022

In 1986, when her mother died at the age of sixty-four, Eleanor Reissa went through all of her belongings. In the back of her mother’s lingerie drawer, she found an old leather purse with a wad of dried up papers in a brittle baggie: fifty-six letters, handwritten in German by her father, in 1949 – only four years after Auschwitz – to her mother, also a refugee, already living in the United States.

Forty years later, Eleanor finally had the letters translated.

With her father’s letters as her silent guide, Eleanor goes on a journey down the River of Time, unearthing the unknowable – about her family’s past, about the Holocaust, and about her own present.

Eleanor Reissa is a Brooklyn born and bred victim/beneficiary of the public school system from K through college. In spite of that (or because of it) she has lived a life greater than her own expectations. She is a Tony-nominated director (Those Were the Days), a Broadway (Indecent) and television actress (The Plot Against America), a prize-winning playwright (Wishful Thinking), a former artistic director of the world’s oldest Yiddish theater (Folksbeine), and a singer in every major venue in New York City and in festivals around the world. She is a regular performer at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. She is a storyteller in English and Yiddish, and the daughter of parents who lived through the Holocaust. She is the host of the Yale University/Fortunoff Archive podcast, Those Who Were There: Voices of the Holocaust. Her memoir, THE LETTERS PROJECT: A Daughter’s Journey, was be published on January 18th, 2022.

“The Holocaust,” Eleanor Reissa writes in this unforgettable and courageous book, “is attached to me like my skin and I would be formless without it.”

Presented as part of the Yiddish Book Center’s 2022 Decade of Discovery: Women in Yiddish.

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