(TIMES OF ISRAEL) -- Master puppeteer and filmmaker Frank Oz’s characters are beloved across the globe. Many of them — including Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear — originated through his collaboration with the late Jim Henson on TV programs such as “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show.” Another Oz character has also become a cultural icon: Yoda, Oz’s contribution to George Lucas’s “Star Wars” franchise.
But there’s a lesser-known side to Oz’s background. Born Frank Oznowicz in 1944, he grew up in a family of Belgium-based puppeteers. His parents, Isidore “Mike” Oznowicz, who was Jewish, and Frances Oznowicz, who was Catholic, used puppetry to satirize Hitler before World War II.
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After the German invasion of the Low Countries in 1940, Mike and Frances fled their home city of Antwerp. A hectic refugee transit followed with stops in Biarritz, Casablanca, Lisbon and the United Kingdom, where Oz was born, before a postwar return to Belgium until he was five, followed by relocation to California’s Bay Area. Now this family narrative is on display in an unconventional exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) in San Francisco.