Actor, Activist George Takei Entertains and Enlightens at Upstander Speaker Series

George Takei (Photo: Amanda Lynn Photography)

George Takei took center stage Thursday night at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium in front of a sold out crowd of nearly 3,000 people. Presented by the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance and SMU Embrey Human Rights Program, Takei spoke honestly about his childhood experiences living in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. He also spoke about the challenges of remaining a closeted gay actor at the height of his popularity playing Lieutenant Sulu on the Star Trek series.

Takei was five years old when he and his family were forced to relocate from their home in Los Angeles to internment camps in Arkansas and northern California. He described being transported by train and seeing families wave from behind barbed wire fences when they arrived at the camp. His childhood innocence protected him from the devastating reality he later understood his parents had endured.

“For my parents to take their three young children into a horse stall and have to live there for a couple of months while the barbed-wire concentration camps are being built,” said Takei. “It must have been a humiliating and painful experience for [my parents].”

His family returned to Los Angeles after the war. Takei’s resilience and idealism found a path to the Civil Rights movement led by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His father played a part in instilling Takei with a sense of activism and pride in the American democracy.

“I learned about American democracy from the man in our family who suffered the most, bore the burden and the anguish of that imprisonment,” said Takei referring to his father. “…my father was the one that said we have to be actively engaged in our society.”

Takei’s activist spirit made him an excellent choice as the first speaker for the Museum’s 2017 Upstander Speaker Series. Recently, he has vocalized his concerns regarding the first weeks of President Trump’s term, such as the executive order he signed banning Muslim refugees from entering the U.S.

“This story of the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during the second World War is very relevant to our times today.”

Sitting in the audience near Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins, sat George’s husband and partner of over 30 years, Brad Takei.

As a gay actor in the 1960’s, Takei quickly learned that his sexual orientation could end his career before it even began. He spent the next few decades in constant fear of exposure, and he cautiously played the role of a heterosexual male on and off screen.

When Takei chose to come out to the public as a homosexual, his career continued to flourish. A fierce supporter of LGBTQ rights, Takei fought for marriage equality and continues to stand up against hatred and prejudice.

“You have to actively participate [in our society] to change it, to make it better.”

We are grateful that the Upstander Speaker Series is supported by The Dallas Morning News and sponsors for this event included the Orchid Giving Circle. Thank you Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce for being our community partner.

– Janet Montealvo, Marketing Coordinator, Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

George Takei: From 2300 to Zero Empty Seats (Oh, myyy!)

George Takei, who played Lieutenant Sulu on the original Star Trek series, is coming to Dallas to speak. He is the first of three Upstander Speakers invited by the Dallas Holocaust Museum to share their stories in 2017. We produced this event in partnership with Southern Methodist University’s Embrey Human Rights Program (EHRP).

Four weeks ago the Museum and EHRP had a venue with 2300 seats to fill. In four weeks, without traditional marketing, we have zero seats left to fill–we’ve beaten our ticket sales projection.  Why?

Yes. Takei is famous for his role of Lieutenant Sulu. And, yes. That’s a part our success.  But, there’s more.  There are five key factors.

  1. Partnering. We partnered with SMU’s Embry Human Rights Program.  This partnership included splitting costs for the event and inviting the SMU community, including thousands of college students, to the event.
  2. There’s an important and fascinating message here. George Takei broke racial barriers in Hollywood.  He also speaks about his family’s time in Japanese-American internment camps during WWII.
  3. Activism. Our mission is to teach the history of the Holocaust and advance human rights to combat prejudice, hatred, and indifference.  Mr. Takei is highly visible as an activist for LGBTQ rights making the event appealing across multiple generations.
  4. Social Media. The level of social engagement on Facebook and Twitter was terrific, generated by the interesting topics Mr. Takei will cover and also by his high profile and incredibly active presence on social media.
  5. Footprint. Our public footprint has grown dramatically over the last five years.  Several years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to hear the question,  “Dallas has a Holocaust Museum?” Our goal is the complete elimination of that question from Texans’ minds through North Central Texas , and we’ve made amazing strides.  Our email database has doubled along with our social media engagement.

In summation, the successful formula looks like this: well-known speaker + strong partner + broadly-appealing message + social media engagement + increased visibility = successful event.

Visit to read about the other 2017 Upstander speakers.

We are grateful to our sponsors and community partners:

Liz and Tom Halsey

Orchid Giving Circle

The Dallas Morning News

Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce


We are thankful for the continued support of our board and members, as well as the general public.

Two Special Events Coming in January

Mark your calendar for two special Museum events coming in January, 2017.

On January 24th, the Museum will hold a panel discussion on the refugee camp experience. The discussion will be a companion program to the Museum’s current special gallery exhibit, Rebirth after the Holocaust: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950.

Join us for the panel discussion and tour the exhibit to learn about the revival of Jewish culture following World War II and the Holocaust, as well as the hardships refugees faced in displaced persons camps as they sought to reclaim their lives and start anew.

The refugee camp experience panel discussion will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum and is open to the public. Featured panelists will be announced later.

On Sunday, January 29th, at 2 p.m. the Museum will honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day—the day when the world comes together to honor the millions of Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Marking the liberation of Auschwitz, International Holocaust Remembrance Day allows us to reflect upon the profound tragedy of the Holocaust. We also come together to share a moment of peace and hope for the future.  The program is free.  Admissions fees for Museum exhibits apply.


Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell Receives Inaugural Upstander Award Named in His Honor from the Dallas Holocaust Museum

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Kevin. J. Farrell at the Vatican

The Dallas Holocaust Museum presented its inaugural Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell Upstander Award to the Cardinal in recognition of his outstanding commitment to human rights and dignity at a special reception at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek on Thursday, Dec. 1.

The new award named in honor of Cardinal Farrell will recognize prominent individuals whose actions are in line with the Museum’s mission to educate school children and adults about the history of the Holocaust and advance human rights to combat prejudice, hatred, and indifference. The award is one of the Museum’s highest honors.

In videotaped acceptance remarks, Cardinal Farrell, appearing from the Vatican in Rome, said: “I have always believed that we are one human family, and we all have to get together and help each other create a better world for everybody. We all need to love and care for each other.”

On September 1, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Farrell to a new post at the Vatican, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life—focused on the lives of ordinary Catholics around the world—making him the highest-ranking American clergyman serving at the Vatican. Since 2007, he had served as the seventh Bishop of Dallas, as well as the chancellor of the University of Dallas. On November 19, 2016, Pope Francis raised Farrell to the rank of Cardinal.

“Cardinal Farrell has dedicated his life to helping others. As a person who stands up against hatred, speaks out and takes action to assist victims, he exemplifies what it means to be an “Upstander,” said Mary Pat Higgins, President, and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. The opposite of a bystander, an Upstander is a person who stands up and speaks up for what is right, even if, at times, they stand alone.

Shortly after his arrival in Dallas in 2007, then-Bishop Farrell quickly demonstrated Upstander activities in the community. He has led marches and spoken at Dallas City Hall to promote immigration reform and compassionate treatment of all immigrants, especially thousands of undocumented migrant children fleeing political violence in Central America. He condemned domestic violence, stressed the importance of female engagement in the Church and brought attention to parishes in need of money.  He is honored lay volunteers for their service and commitment. In 2014, he invited the family of a Dallas Ebola victim to stay at a church-owned-  house as they waited in quarantine to see if they had contracted the deadly disease.

“We help people because we’re Catholic, not because they’re Catholic,” he said at the time in response to a reporter who asked why the diocese was helping the non-Catholic family.

Following the tragic shooting on July 7 of police officers in downtown Dallas, which killed five officers and injured nine others, along with two civilians, then-Bishop Farrell joined both civic and faith leaders in prayer for peace and healing.

Last year, at the behest of then-Bishop Farrell, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas co-presented the special gallery exhibit Holocaust by Bullets with the Dallas Holocaust Museum. The exhibit presented ten years of research and investigation by a Catholic Priest, Father Patrick Dubois, about the systematic murder of two million Jews who were shot and left in unmarked graves in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine during the Holocaust.

Holocaust Museum Board-Chair Elect Florence Shapiro presented the Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell Upstander Award to Bishop Greg Kelly, Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.

“In celebrating an occasion such as this one tonight, I am reminded of the words of Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, Mrs. Shapiro said.

“Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future.”

“To our friends at the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, thank you for your gift of hope as you stand with us as partners in every true sense.”

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum


December 8 Film Night: “The Long Way Home”

Join us on Thursday, December 8 for a special screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Long Way Home, narrated by Morgan Freeman. The film will be screened in conjunction with our current special gallery exhibit, Rebirth after the Holocaust: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950.

The Long Way Home tells the story of thousands of Jewish survivors as they tried to reclaim their place in the world following World War II and the Holocaust. Using rare archival footage and stills, news reels, and interviews, the film depicts the challenges refugees faced in displaced persons camps—refugee centers set up specifically for survivors of the Holocaust.

This companion film echoes the true stories of survival and liberation presented in the Museum’s current exhibit. Come see the film and tour our exhibit to witness the revival of Jewish culture in the unlikeliest of places, as well as the struggle to establish a homeland. Learn about the years of delayed freedom, uncertainty, and physical hardship before the refugees were finally permitted to begin new lives in Israel, the United States, and elsewhere.

The Long Way Home starts at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 8, at the Museum. Run Time is 120 minutes. The screening is free, but RSVP is required. Register at Eventbrite.


For Upstander Speaker Mike Kim, Saving Lives at the North Korean Border Required that He Risk Losing His Own

Mike Kim
Mike Kim

“You have to get through the gate. If you get through the gate, you will be safe. Inside is sovereign ground.”

Humanitarian Mike Kim was preparing four teenagers to break into the British consulate in Shanghai, but the kids were distracted. They’d never been to a McDonald’s restaurant before.

One of the kids was playing a game on Kim’s phone. He couldn’t put it down.

“Are you listening to me?” The four North Koreans looked up at him, one with a straw still in her mouth.

“That’s when it hit me,” said Kim, speaking in front of a packed audience at the Communities Foundation of Texas on Thursday, November 17, “these were just kids. They didn’t understand how dangerous it was to gain their freedom.”

Kim, a human trafficking expert and award-winning author, was the Museum’s Upstander Speaker for November—an event sponsored by The Dallas Morning News.

Kim’s story began on New Year’s Day, 2003, when he arrived in China after giving up his successful financial planning business in Chicago. A graduate of Georgetown and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Kim had decided to forego a promising future in business and instead do the unthinkable: smuggle North Koreans out of a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world.

While living near the China-North Korea border, Kim operated undercover as a North Korean taekwondo student training under two well-known masters from Pyongyang. From there, he used a 6,000-mile underground railroad to lead many North Korean refugees and sex trafficking victims to safety in Southeast Asia.

“The underground railroad used during American slavery was an inspiration,” said Kim. Centuries later and half-way across the globe, the methods for a traveler to skirt authority and travel discreetly remained the same.

And of course, danger lurked wherever he went. “Getting caught by Chinese authorities was one thing,” said Kim, “but if North Korean authorities found out what you were doing, they would send assassins to China to kill you.”

Avoiding human traffickers and drug smugglers was daunting. Kim used the same paths the criminals used, and there were many close calls, but he took comfort knowing that he would be reclaiming the underground system for righteous purposes.

When Kim and the four North Korean kids left McDonald’s that day and arrived just outside the British consulate, they saw Chinese guards milling around the front gate. “When I give you the word,” he told them, “I want you to run through the gate as fast as you can. If the guards come across the line and try to pull you back, you’re allowed to kick and scream. Do whatever you can to stay on sovereign the ground.”

The guards turned away for a moment, and Kim gave the kids the signal. They sprinted for the gate. Three of them had made it through the gates when the guards heard the commotion and ran back to their posts. They crossed the line illegally and grabbed the fourth kid as she passed onto the sovereign ground. The guards yanked on her, but she shook free and got away just before they could pull her back over the line.

They had made it to freedom.

Years later, after the kids had resettled in South Korea, Kim got a call. They wanted to meet up with him. “Where do you want to meet?” he asked. They didn’t hesitate.


Mike Kim’s memoir, Escaping North Korea: Defiance and Hope in the World’s Most Repressive Country, describes his harrowing experiences at the China-North Korea border. Kim is also the founder of Crossing Borders, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance to North Korean refugees. Crossing Borders organizers have testified before Congress on the issue of counteracting human trafficking in China, and the organization regularly contributes to the U.S. State Department’s “Annual Trafficking in Persons Report.”

Be sure to join us on December 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum for the film screening, The Long Way Home, the 1997 Academy Award-winning documentary directed by Mark Jonathan Harris that focuses on the post-war period from 1945-1948 and the plight of tens of thousands of Jewish survivors and refugees as they reclaimed their place in the world. Rare archival footage—stills, newsreels, and interviews—was used to complete the film. The screening is free but an RSVP is required through Eventbrite.

-McGuire Boles for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance


Amid Heated Election Rhetoric, ‘City-Wide Read and Performance’ Teaches DISD Fifth Graders R-E-S-P-E-C-T

willesdenlaneBy Mary Pat Higgins

People often ask me about the purpose of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, and I’m quick to respond that we teach the importance of standing up to counter hatred and prejudice.

Shaping minds and positively affecting behavior is at the core of our mission.

With all that is happening in the world today, including the strong emotions and rhetoric raised by the 2016 Presidential Election, our work is more important than ever.

Next week, the Museum, the Dallas Independent School District, and Jewish day schools from around the region will host the first-ever, privately-funded “City-Wide Read and Performance” at Fair Park Music Hall.

More than 12,300 students from 153 DISD Schools and local Jewish day schools—along with 500 educators—will engage with an innovative, interactive and creative Holocaust education program based on the book, The Children of Willesden Lane. The book tells the true story of a young Jewish girl who used her musical talent to find her way in her new home after escaping the Nazis as a passenger on the Kindertransport.

The unique “City-Wide Read and Performance” project began more than a year ago when the Museum discussed the idea with the book’s co-author, the concert pianist Mona Golabek. Similar programs produced amazing results in 20 cities across the U.S. with a total of 150,000 student participants. In Dallas, the program quickly gained traction through the generosity of a Dallas resident who cares deeply about children’s education and underwrote the project cost. That donation, which was a matching gift that attracted other donors’ generosity—along with the work and dedication of event co-chairs Helen Risch and Ynette Hogue—made this program a reality.

Last summer, the Museum’s education team provided age-appropriate Holocaust education training and curricula to 500 English, History, Art, and Performing Arts teachers, librarians and administrators.

Using a curriculum centered on the book and the history of the Holocaust and its lessons, educators teach about anti-Semitism, race, religion, morality, and courage in an age-appropriate manner. The book highlights topics that touch the lives of many children today, including overcoming adversity, growing up without one or both parents and experiencing prejudice. Following Texas Education Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) requirements, the curriculum covers the geography of Europe, Hitler’s rise to power, the Kindertransport, and vocabulary including words such as “refugee,” “bystander,” and “identity.”

At the start of the school year, each DISD fifth grader received a complimentary copy of the book, excerpts of which they read during their Social Studies, English Language Arts and ESL classes. They were also encouraged to read with their families at home.

In October, students expressed their feelings about the book and the Holocaust in their art and performing arts classes.

From Monday to Wednesday of next week (November 14th to 16th), the project culminates with a performance by Mona Golabek. She will present a series of interactive concert performances for more than 12,300 students at the Music Hall.

Character education is at the core of the “City-Wide Read and Performance,” and this, in turn, impacts children’s emotional, moral and intellectual development. The program will yield huge dividends for the children in attendance, their families, and our communities.

Higher academic performance, improved attendance, reduced violence, fewer disciplinary issues, reduction in substance abuse, and less vandalism are reported as outcomes of a sustained focus upon character education.

Students have also reported feeling safer at schools in which they and their peers are taught the value of respect, responsibility, compassion and hard work. From a practical perspective, it’s simply easier to teach children how to exercise patience, self-control, and diligence.

We know from independent studies on the impact of a student’s visit to the Museum that if we can reach students at an early age, we can inspire them to become Upstanders—people who stand up and speak up for what is right, even if, at times, they stand alone.

Mary Pat Higgins is President & CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. Email



“Rebirth After the Holocaust: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950,” Newest Special Exhibit New Open for Visitors

Jean Bloch Rosensaft

When the British Army marched into the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945, their long and traumatic days of fighting had not prepared them for the horrors they would encounter inside the camp.

The air around the camp had turned sour with the stench of 10,000 unburied bodies. Even more shocking were the tens of thousands of “walking corpses,” those who were hanging onto life by a thread due to disease and starvation.

The British had not come to Germany to liberate anyone, yet found themselves in charge of keeping alive thousands of Jews and other refugees who had been brought to the camp to die.

Jean Bloch Rosensaft was the guest speaker at the October 6 opening reception of the Museum’s latest special exhibit.  She shared that  both her parents and future in-laws resided at the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp and became important leaders there.

Rosensaft, an Assistant Vice President at Hebrew Union College in New York, and her father, a Holocaust survivor, organized the Bergen-Belen exhibit, using historical evidence and eyewitness accounts given by survivors, including their family members.

Even though the prisoners had been liberated and given refuge in the displaced persons camp, their troubles persisted. About 500 people died every day from typhus and malnutrition. Many could not digest their rations, while some resisted life-saving injections from Army doctors because of their experiences with poor or nefarious medical treatment in the camp.

The British were not prepared for this kind of refugee crisis. Circumstances in the camp became dire. Thanks to press coverage seen and heard around the world, news of poor living conditions within the camp reached the ears of President Harry Truman, who had taken office just three days before the liberation. Camp conditions quickly and dramatically improved.

Jewish refugees in the camp began to organize and decided to build a life for themselves, however temporary, while they waited to find a host country or migrate to Israel.

Within six weeks, the camp committee had set up a school where children were taught modern Hebrew. The focus on teaching this lingua franca gave the camp’s Jews, originally citizens of many different countries, the ability to communicate.

The committee organized cultural, religious, and political activities for the survivors, including two theatre troupes that put on plays about survivors’ experiences in the concentration camps. A form of psychological healing, noted Rosensaft, occurred during the performances when audience members’ experiences and feelings were affirmed by what performers reenacted on stage.

The camp held nearly 20 marriage ceremonies a day with open invitations, and over the lifetime of the camp, more than 2,000 children were born. The Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp not only provided refuge for survivors, it was also enabled survivors to find community and regain control over their lives.

By the middle of 1950, the majority of the Jewish refugees had migrated to Israel, Canada, South Africa, or the United States, with only a small number remaining in Germany.

The memory of the displaced persons camp lives on in Jean Bloch Rosensaft, whose exhibit  depicts not only the hardships in the displaced persons camp but also the hope for the future that so many reclaimed in their temporary home in northern Germany.

Find out just how resilient these survivors proved to be. Learn about the underground organization set up by survivors to resist forced repatriation after liberation. Experience all this and more when you visit the museum’s special exhibit “Rebirth After the Holocaust: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950,” which runs until January 31, 2017.

–McGuire Boles, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance


Nate Levine: 2016 Hope for Humanity Award Honoree

nate-levine-5-24-16-photo-2The Museum has officially announced its 2016 Hope for Humanity Honoree. Business person, philanthropist, and volunteer Nate Levine will accept the award at the Museum’s annual Hope for Humanity Dinner on Wednesday, October 26 at the Fairmont Hotel’s Regency Ballroom.

Nate joins other prominent community members who have received the Museum’s Hope for Humanity Award, including former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, Exxon VP Frank Risch, Attorney Don M. Glendenning of Locke Lord, Commercial Metals CEO Stan Rabin, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Every day is a gift, says Nate, an opportunity not only to learn and to grow but to serve others in meaningful ways. “If I can bring about a small change in someone’s life, or do my part to help alleviate poverty, I consider those as accomplishments,” he says.

For nearly 45 years, Nate and his wife Ann Levine have shared their time, talent, and spirit with the city of Dallas. They have endowed a Chair for Jewish Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and provided significant funding for the Ann and Nate Levine Academy in Dallas.

From humble beginnings in upstate New York where he grew up, Nate graduated from the RCA Institute of Technology in New York City and began his career repairing televisions.

Recognizing opportunities in the burgeoning cable television business, Nate became a pioneer in the industry, serving as Chief Engineer for Jerrold Electronics Systems Division of Philadelphia, which was later sold to Sammons Communications of Dallas. Ann and Nate followed the company to Dallas in 1972 and never looked back.

In the late 1970s, Nate launched his business building and operating cable systems throughout the Southwestern United States. His company pioneered a new credit collections method serving cable systems and other firms across the nation. Later in life, Nate formed a real estate investment company that has holdings throughout Texas.

Join Us In September For These Must-See Events

september10September is a busy month at the Museum. We’re saying goodbye to the heat and hello to autumn with five special events centered around the International Day of Peace—celebrated annually on September 21st around the world.

Each week in September, the Museum will host a special guest to talk about his or her experiences before, during, and after the Holocaust.

Events kick off on Sunday, September 4th, as Holocaust survivor Jack Repp tells his incredible, true story of fighting in the resistance and living in various ghettos and concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Dachau, and Kielce. Jack will speak at 12:30 PM; you don’t need a ticket to hear the speaker, but admission is required to tour the Museum.

On Sunday, September 11th, Magie Furst will talk about life as a Kindertransport refugee and how Jewish children were rescued from the Nazis and brought to the United Kingdom. Maggie will speak at 12:30 PM; you don’t need a ticket to hear the speaker, but admission is required to tour the Museum.

The Museum will officially recognize the International Day of Peace on Sunday, September 18th, with its main event of the season when it hosts three speakers who will tell their dramatic stories of endurance and survival. Survivors Max Glauben, Fred Strauss, and Jack Repp will speak at 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM, respectively. Museum admission will be free on this day; however, space will be limited.

Holocaust refugee Fred Strauss will return the following Sunday, September 25th, to talk about growing up in Germany and surviving the Holocaust. Fred will speak at 12:30 PM; you don’t need a ticket to hear the speaker, but admission is required to tour the Museum.

Please note that two docents will be available to provide guided tours following the speaker on September 4, 11, and 25. The tours will start around 1:45, immediately following the speaker. Docents will guide groups of 15 people each. A sign-up sheet for the tours will be provided at the front desk. Access to group tours is on a first-come, first-served basis.

On Tuesday, September 27th, the Museum will wrap up the month with a discussion on the history of anti-Semitism, hosted by Dr. Sara Abosch, Senior Director of Education at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. “Lunch and Learn: Historical Lessons” begins at 11:30 AM and is open and free to the public. RSVP is required through Eventbrite.

–McGuire Boles, for The Dallas Holocaust Museum