Tikkun olam—the legacy of Fred Amram

On February 13, I learned of the passing of my dear friend, Fred Amram. Many of you perhaps had the opportunity to meet Fred, as for the past five years, he has been a frequent guest and lecturer at the Haus. Fred was most notably known as a Holocaust survivor, eager to share his experience fleeing Germany after the Nazi invasion of his hometown, Hannover, and beginning a new life in the U.S. When sharing his story, Fred always challenged his audience to be up-standers, to notice grave injustices both locally and globally, and to have the courage to speak out and take action. At age 89, Fred was still a passionate voice for social justice. It is from him that I first learned of tikkun olam, a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to repair a broken world.

Fred was a wonderfully multifaceted person. He retired from the University of Minnesota as “Professor of Creativity.” In addition to teaching and writing, Fred was also an inventor. I had the privilege of trying on the Amram 5-in-1 Backpack, a backpack he designed for college students to better distribute the weight in their schoolbags while trekking across campus. Fred never stopped noticing problems he could help solve. 

I spoke with Fred just two weeks before he died. Our events team had a Zoom meeting with him where we started to plan how the GAI could honor Holocaust Remembrance this year. Fred was eager to lead a writing workshop, teaching participants how they could record their family’s heritage through storytelling. Fred’s memoir, We’re in America Now, a Survivor’s Stories, has been published and his wife Sandra Brick, a gifted textile and media artist, has created an accompanying exhibit, Lest We Forget, a Survivor’s Stories, recently on exhibit at the Twin Cities German Immersion School. We still plan to host the storytelling workshop with Sandra, likely this fall, knowing how pleased he would be that we too believe that every family’s story is worth saving and passing down to the next generation.

Jeana Anderson, GAI Executive Director