Claire Boren was born in 1938 in Mizocz, a small town in what was then Poland but is now part of Ukraine. Her family, just a step ahead of the Nazis, fled into hiding in 1942, first with a Christian family, then on a farm, and eventually in a forest. After the Russians liberated the area, Boren and her mother spent time in a Displaced Persons camp, before ultimately coming to the United States in 1949.
They settled in New Jersey, where Boren earned her bachelor’s degree from Queens College and later a master’s degree from Columbia University, and has become an accomplished artist, with her work featured at exhibitions throughout New York and New Jersey. And for all of that time, she remained close with her mother, who lived to be 102 years old.
Boren is set to visit Milwaukee this spring and will give a talk, as a featured guest, for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) commemoration, which is Monday, April 17. The event will take place at 6 p.m. at the Daniel M. Soref Community Hall at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay. (See story, this page, “Yom HaShoah commemoration slated for April 17.”)
“I think what I plan on doing is tell part of my story,” Boren said of the April event. “In recent weeks, when I speak now, I’ve been making a point of talking about the rise in antisemitism in the United States. I’m basically going to say that with the rise of antisemitism, it’s very important to continue telling our stories, and being vigilant, and really making sure we stay strong as a Jewish people.”
She will also be discussing “how her experiences and memories from the Holocaust have shaped and continue to shape her artwork,” said Michael Morris, the community engagement manager for the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center.
Boren’s late husband Adam was also a survivor, and participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which marks its 80th anniversary this year. She says that while Adam was alive, he often told stories about his Holocaust experience, while she was much quieter about it. She started speaking out a bit more through her art, and that “opened up the floodgates,” she said.
“I had never spoken about my experience, I never talked at schools, I never even talked to my friends,” she said.
But after her husband’s death in 2009, she began to tell more and more stories, and even gave a testimony to Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation, which is available on the Foundation’s YouTube channel. Her story is also told on the site of The Holocaust Survivors Project. She often speaks to schools in New Jersey, through the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education.
“I do it because I feel that it’s really important,” she said. “And there aren’t that many survivors left. I’m still around because I was a young child… I’m fortunate in having a good constitution and I’m still around.”