86-year-old Reynolds School grad wins Telly Award for documentary
When you typically think of graduates doing outstanding work after graduation, one may argue that it’s coming from a young and ambitious 20 or 30-something career driven Reynolds School grad.
With that said, please get to know Doris (Hanssen) Sinofsky. She’s a graduate from the class of 1949, and at the age of 86, she’s managed to produce an award-winning documentary on the Holocaust titled, “Never Forgotten.” The film won a 2013 Telly Award. It is the premier award honoring the finest film and video productions, groundbreaking web commercials, videos and films, and outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs.
Watch the award-winning documentary “Never Forgotten”
The idea to produce “Never Forgotten” came to her after she met a fellow resident at Cedar Crest, an active community for senior adults in northern New Jersey.
“I met a woman from Florida named Lily Zaks who, over the course of our conversation, shared her story with me. She showed me a tattoo on her arm,” Sinofsky said. “It was a tattoo of four numbers.”
She added, “Lily from Florida was originally from Poland. When the Nazi’s invaded, she was separated from her husband and ended up at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. During her time at Auschwitz, she thought her husband had died in the Holocaust. Luckily, she got out of the camp and learned her husband was alive. Someone told her he was living in a small village in Poland, used his same name, but had another woman in his life. He thought Lily died, too. Lily ended up tracking him down and got him back.”
This is just one example of many touching and heart-wrenching stories told in “Never Forgotten.”
After speaking with Lily, Sinofsky soon discovered that several of her fellow community members had not only suffered through and endured the Holocaust but managed to survive, recover, move on, relocate to the United States, start families and live meaningful lives.
“People are such survivors,” Sinofsky said. “Many wound up at Cedar Crest, and with so many living historians around we thought it would make a great program to talk about how our residents made it through such a horrific historic event and survived.”
A total of 19 interviews were conducted for the documentary. Sinofsky worked with Bert Moore, Cedar Crest’s pastoral ministries manager and former Navy chaplain, to conduct interviews.
“Bert and I had no idea how to get people to open up and talk about their Holocaust experience,” she said. “Bert, as head of pastoral ministries, was well known at Cedar Crest. People were comfortable sharing their positive and some very dark stories with him.”
She added, “Some of the interviews were harrowing. The assistant director of Cedar Crest was born in Poland. She told me her father and his family had been in the ghetto in Krakow. Somehow, her father managed to escape to Russia and remained there throughout the war. His wife and daughter were not so lucky. They were put in the camps and killed.”
Other interviews were humorous and unexpected.
For example, Sinofsky said, “Cedar Crest offers a memoir writing class to residents and there were these two men in the class who happened to start chatting with each other. Through conversation, they learned that they were both at Buchenwald Concentration Camp on the same day, at the same time! Now they are writing their memoirs at Cedar Crest. This is the remarkable aspect of what we learned over the course of interviewing and filming the documentary.”
“Never Forgotten” debuted at the Cedar Crest theater on May 21 at 7 p.m. to a packed house of more than 263 people.
“It was so well received that we had to show the film multiple times because not everyone could fit into the theater for the premiere,” Sinofsky said. “Families of survivors came, we hosted a fancy reception and many people in attendance had no idea that their neighbors at Cedar Crest had literally been through hell.”
Sinofsky said, “The folks featured in the documentary are real survivors. To see death the way they did…one line going right and the other going left. The one to the right equals death and the one to the left equals life. It’s truly hard to believe.”
When asked about how her time at the Reynolds School helped her conceptualize and produce “Never Forgotten,” Sinofsky said with a laugh, “It took me 60 years to become the reporter I always wanted to be.”
“I received a great education at the Reynolds School,” she said. “I still write for the Cedar Crest newspaper. I conduct interviews and keep all of my notes for one year. I worry about what my lead is going to be so I can entice people to read more.
“At 86-years-old, I am finally a reporter and it’s very gratifying.”
“The Reynolds School prepared me,” she said. “The education I received was a wonderful introduction to journalism and helped me make the transition into working as a professional.”
She added, “While I dreamed of being a professional journalist, after graduation, I got married [and] became a school teacher.”
During her time at the Reynolds School, Sinofsky worked for the Sparks Tribune for three years and interned during her senior year with the Reno Gazette-Journal.
In addition to working for the Sparks Tribune and interning for the Gazette, Sinofsky served as secretary to the Nevada student body president and worked for the Nevada Sagebrush. She also served as editor of Artemisia, the University of Nevada’s yearbook, and was president of the Press Club.
“I had excellent teachers,” she said. “Professor Higginbotham, chairman of the journalism department, did an excellent job running the program out of a very small building.”
Her time at Nevada also led her to her husband, Ken Sinofsky, a Nevada football (1944-1949) star. He was inducted into the Nevada Athletics Hall of Fame in 1987 and is a member of the Nevada Century Team.
“I met Ken my sophomore year and we started dating my junior year,” she said. “The football team was very successful from 1946-1948, but my senior year was the best year of my life. I no longer had to take the bus to Sparks, didn’t have to worry about the Artemisia, the football team was winning and Ken received a signing bonus to play professional football. We both enjoyed our last semester because we had a little bit of money and got to go out to dinner. It was great!”
“Ken was a first-class guy,” said Nevada Athletics Director Emeritus, friend and Nevada football teammate Richard “Dick” Trachok (class of 1949). “He was a very smart football player, had a great sense of humor and was always willing to help a friend in need.”
Trachok added, “When we graduated, Ken went on to play semi-pro football in New Jersey. I wasn’t surprised to learn he was recognized as one of the best in the state. He was very disciplined and was motivated to learn how to do things himself both on and off of the football field.”
“We always teased Ken for dating Doris,” he said. “We’d tell him that we knew he stayed with her because she was the editor of the Artemisia and, as a result, would get lots of pictures in the University’s yearbook!”