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Naava Piatka

Naava Piatka, the multi-talented internationally known artist / actress / playwright / author, born in Cape Town, South Africa on 21 March, 1952, died peacefully at age 57 on September 17, 2009 after a year long brave struggle with cancer.

Born to Holocaust survivor parents, Xavier Piat and Chayela Rosenthal, Naava began her performing career as a child, singing on stage with her cabaret star mother, Chayela, and her younger sister, Zola (   In High School, Naava won top honors in the Royal Academy of Music and other drama related competitions.  After receiving her University of Cape Town BA degree in English and Drama, Naava taught at the Gertrude Haas Entertainment Educational Center, did radio work and held her sold-out first art exhibition of paintings of Jerusalem at the age of 22.  

After moving to Johannesburg, Naava worked as a freelance journalist, started the art department at a local private school, exhibited her artwork in local galleries and co-founded Stages, a children’s theatre company.  After marrying and immigrating to the USA (1977) , Naava continued exhibiting and selling her fine art, working as an actress in regional theatre, writing and directing original musicals for Showstoppers, the theatre troupe for children she began at the Newton JCC.

Her local communities were enhanced by Naava’s natural leadership and inspirational qualities. Along with her charity and volunteer work through her roles as president of Bedford Newcomer’s Club, and Co-president of her children’s school PTA, she also worked professionally as an event coordinator for the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, as well as drama coach, theatre director, workshop and seminar presenter, and keynote speaker on topics dealing with tolerance and forgiveness.

As a writer, Naava received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant to stage her full-length musical, won several Boston Playwrights’ New Plays competitions and received commissions for her musical plays.  She is a featured contributor in Cyndi Kaplan’s “Awaken Your Business Creativity”, and Joyce Schwarz’s “The Vision Board”, and in the One-By-One.Inc  book  “Transforming the Legacies of Conflict, War, and Genocide” on the collaborative making of her puppet “Yisroilik” with German descendant Helga Muller – the puppet being an integral  character in Naava’s one woman show about her Holocaust survivor/Yiddish actress mother.

In September of 2009, Naava’s debut book “NO GOODBYES”, a father-daughter memoir about Love, War and Resurrection, that she finished while battling her cancer and other health complications, was published just days before her passing and was listed in the top 100 bestsellers on Amazon.   

As an actress, Naava was best known for her internationally acclaimed solo musical performance piece, “BETTER DON’T TALK” (aka. FINDING MY MOTHER’S VOICE) about the remarkable life and times of her Holocaust survivor actress mother, star of the Vilna Ghetto. From her debut Off Broadway at 59E59 Theatres, Naava traveled the world, winning rave reviews at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, performing in Holocaust commemorations, Jewish Community Centers,  cabaret conferences, museums, colleges and theatres in South Africa, Australia, Canada, Germany, Austria, the UK, Lithuania and throughout the United States.  In Poland, performed this play in Yiddish on the same stage as her mom had performed on many decades before…  

Naava wrote and delivered life-coaching motivational programs on multiple relevant topics and shared her unique, uplifting brand of Holocaust education and tolerance awareness through countrywide workshops, at schools, community venues and fundraising events.

Naava’s art career has included commercial graphic design, greeting cards, portraiture, and a diverse range of paintings in different styles, from realistic to abstract and mixed media. Her paintings, sold at various galleries from Cape Town to Boston to Englewood, New Jersey, are now held in private collections internationally.

Following her divorce after 22 years of marriage, Naava moved to New York and then New Jersey, where she continued to inspire new communities with her zest for life, her feisty passion energy, warm and loving personality, her spiritual wisdom,  and wide range of creative  talents. All over the world, friends took pleasure in her festive parties and riveting storytelling of her exciting travels to places like Israel, Bali and Peru.  

Both on and off stage, Naava entertained with her distinct ebullient life force of positive energy, humor and depth, moving people to tears, laughter and perceptive insights.  Her personal mission of Tikkun Olam, healing the world, was ever present in both her creative works and personal actions. 

A devoted and caring daughter to her immigrant Holocaust survivor parents, a loving and fun older sister, a warm, caring and inspiring mom, a special – albeit brief time as – grandma, an excellent cook and homemaker, a friend to all, a teacher, leader, mentor and so much more…..   Naava, an unforgettable, radiant force of life, love and laughter, who passed away at age 57, after a courageous battle with cervical cancer, leaving behind her children Chantal Rotondo, Dan Levitt,  Jaclyn Levitt, and her son-in-law, Peter Rotondo,  grandson Zachary Rotondo,  sister Zola Shuman, brother-in-law, Selwyn Shuman and extended family, friends and so very many fans around the world… and her granddaughter Alaina, born after she passed.  

The physical form that was Naava is buried at the Temple Emeth Memorial Park, 776 Baker St/ Dedham Street, on the West Roxbury/Newton border – Massachusetts, – laying alongside her father, Xavier.

Dedicated to honoring and memorializing her family’s inspirational legacy of creating music and theatre during the Holocaust, Naava’s goal was to impart the message of the triumph of creativity over tragedy, the importance of arts and culture, and the need for ongoing communication to address the present and heal the past.

The creative arts talent, as legacy in her family, is ongoing through the works of her talented children: Jaclyn (Singer-Songwriter and creative Barber & Hair Stylist), Dan ( Long Haul Management) and Chantal (Long Haul Management) and her Billboard award winning, singer-songwriter /recording artist sister, ZOLA (

L I N K S: 

BETTER DON’T TALK”  – Full length musical :

NO GOODBYES” – trailer about the book :

 Naava talks about writing the book: Part 1 

                                                                  Part 2:

Purchase the book here: 

Talking about her illness –  Part 1 :

                                                Part 2   :

Naava’s Facebook Remembrance Page

Naava’s ARTWORK :

Articles about Naava by friends and colleagues:


ZOLA  (sister)

DAN LEVITT (son) :