Oz Pearlman kicked off The Florida Holocaust Museum’s 25th Anniversary year this Sunday (9/11) with an interactive and astounding performance of his unique blend of mentalism and magic at The Palladium Theatre in downtown St. Petersburg, FL. Oz has a unique connection to the Holocaust – his grandmother survived Auschwitz, while his grandfather was a partisan fighter – making him a fitting choice to begin this important anniversary year.
The fundraiser event included a VIP experience before the public performance, allowing the audience to get up-close and personal with Oz. Throughout the casual and intimate setting of the VIP reception, Oz was able to discuss more of the tricks and techniques that contribute to his mind-blowing demonstrations. While he didn’t reveal his magician’s secrets, Oz did explain some of the methods behind his mind-reading and mentalism, such as using the power of suggestion to influence an audience member to choose a particular color, allowing Oz to guess the color beforehand. He also relies heavily on reading nonverbal cues and using subtle body-language indicators, such as avoiding eye-contact or playing with hair, to decode what people are thinking. A popular trick involved asking an audience member to choose a contact from their phone, then asking questions about that person to guess their name. Other demonstrations, however, seemed simply beyond explanation. How Oz was able to accurately calculate the serial number on a random dollar bill from a combination of random audience members’ birthdays during his public performance will perhaps always remain a mystery. His final trick involved accurately predicting a variety of audience members’ responses to seemingly random and interwoven questions, even asking the audience members to choose who would be asked the next question, negating the possibility of Oz knowing anything about the participants before making his predictions. The effect was baffling; the whole theater was brought to their feet in a standing ovation for Oz’s final demonstration of mind-blowing mentalism and magic.
Oz’s demonstrations were almost surreal and certainly entertaining, but the lasting power of the event lays in Oz’s personal connection to the Holocaust. As the grandson of Holocaust Survivors, Oz represents the changing landscape of Holocaust memory, allowing us to ask, and perhaps begin to answer, what happens as time moves on, when we no longer have the first-hand experience of hearing from a Survivor – an important question as The Florida Holocaust Museum enters their 25th year.
Highlighting the stories and experiences of the Holocaust’s descendants, such as Oz, becomes a vital aspect of continuing Holocaust legacy as we continue to build a collective memory and educate future generations. As we move further and further from the particular time and place in which the Holocaust occurred, there is a risk that future generations will begin to lose perspective of the magnitude and devastation of the Holocaust. Preserving existing records and testimony is central to avoiding this loss, but another integral element involves finding new ways to remember and honor these experiences, and finding new ways to educate and connect with generations multiple-times-removed from the Holocaust. Part of this changing legacy involves the experiences of those like Oz, who grew up with the memory of the Holocaust in a very personal way. Even when the first-hand experience of speaking with a survivor is no longer available to us, continuing to highlight personal connections to the Holocaust, even if more indirect than that of previous generations, will become a vital part of the legacy and experience of those affected by the Holocaust, a task close to the heart of The Florida Holocaust Museum’s mission.
In a short promotional video for Sunday’s event, Oz brought up this personal connection by describing The Florida Holocaust Museum as a cause “near and dear to [his] heart,” and emphasized the importance of Holocaust memory with “always remember,” and urging people to attend the event and donate to the Museum. That the event was so successful is an indication of continued support of The Florida Holocaust Museum, and a continued commitment to the preservation of Holocaust memory.