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Special Guest Post: Support of the Dallas Holocaust Museum Showcases Values

JoleneRischBy Jolene Risch

As a society, we battle prejudice and discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, age, and religion on a daily basis. We are reminded of our humanity through social causes, the arts, museums, historical points of interest, and each other. To thrive as a business community, it is incumbent upon us to recognize there is much work to be done in the mission to empower all people.

One way that businesses can foster acceptance, moral and ethical responsibility, and goodwill is to support causes that have, at their foundation, the goal of equality and acceptance of all people. One such organization that demonstrates these qualities is the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. If you consider the fact that there are 939 active hate groups in the United States, and also state-sponsored genocide in Syria, Iraq, North Korea, and South Central Africa, you can see the extreme need for education to combat intolerance. As such, I strongly encourage businesses to join the Holocaust Museum as a demonstration of their company’s advocacy for inclusion, tolerance, and diversity.

I have the distinct honor of being involved with the Dallas Holocaust Museum and recently participated in Hope for Humanity Dinner, a fundraiser designed to raise capital for general operating funds to help with our day-to-day operations.  The Mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, was honored this past year at the dinner, and he spoke about the importance for the City of Dallas to support the construction of a new building to house the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.  The additional space will be dedicated to exhibits showcasing how we can leverage the knowledge and lessons from the atrocities of the Holocaust to impact civil rights, bullying, bigotry, and discrimination. I believe this connection between understanding history and applying it to modern day issues is key to making our business community thrive.

Support Showcases Values

The Dallas Holocaust Museum was founded in 1984 in the basement of the Jewish Community Center of Dallas. It moved to the West End in 2005, however, with 72,500 visitors each year, the demand has outgrown the limited space, and it can’t accommodate larger, more compelling exhibits or adequately store archives. The new museum will be able to accommodate 200,000 visitors annually, and will include, among other things, a special exhibit space for traveling exhibits, library and archives, and a state-of-the-art 250-person theater.

Because I believe in the mission of the museum, I want my company to be actively involved in its evolution. How does your company support the causes you believe in? As an executive recruiter, I can tell you that your answer to this question is critical to hiring and retention. In the article, “The Importance of Core Company Values in Hiring and Retention,” the author explains that defining company values and hiring people who demonstrate similar beliefs will not only lead to increased engagement, but it will also improve your company culture and morale.

Starting with the executive team, be sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to company values. Define those values and share them with every employee. Use those values when making hiring choices. The values should be embedded in the company culture, and demonstrated through activities, donations, and other means of support. Participate in causes that are close to the heart, and in the process, you’ll help to strengthen the company—and the community at large.

Jolene Risch is Principal of Risch Results, one of Dallas’ top executive search firms for executive management, manufacturing, and financial services talent. Learn more about how Risch Results can help with your talent needs at RischResults.com or 972.839.9447.

From the Safety of the Secret Annex, Anne Frank Reveals Life-Changing Lessons for All of Us Today

anne_frankBefore the world met the bright, optimistic girl named Anne Frank, she and her family lived in complete secrecy behind a bookcase for two years, hiding from Nazi soldiers and sympathizers.

In the red and white checkered journal given to her by her father for her 13th birthday, Anne wrote down her experiences, insights, and dreams in a voice distinctly her own. “I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people,” she proclaims, “I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

Now open as a special exhibit, “Anne Frank: A History for Today” takes Dallas Holocaust Museum visitors beyond the pages of her diary by providing a broad perspective on the Holocaust, human rights, the Nazis, and the Frank family’s experiences in hiding. The exhibit introduces new contextual information and insight into the conditions and timeframe in which Anne Frank and her family lived.

At the exhibit opening on Jan. 14, two educators shared their insights into the life of Anne Frank and her diary. Hilary Stipelman, Director of Outreach and Exhibitions for the Anne Frank Center USA, spoke movingly of the universal lessons Anne’s diary shares with the world—courage, optimism, hope and difference-making, to name but a few.

“She left us one of the first written accounts by a family suffering under Nazi tyranny,” Ms. Stipelman said.

Dr. Charlotte Decoster, Assistant Director of Education for the Museum, spoke of a personal connection she felt to Anne Frank while growing up in her home country of Belgium. “Anne is one of the reasons I can speak about hope when it comes to the Holocaust,” she said. “Anne is a symbol for me of the lessons all of us need to learn from Holocaust.”

Although Anne and most of her family members did not survive the Holocaust, her wish to go on living, to affect people’s lives even after death, was granted.

Her diary, discovered by her father after the war, was published in the original Dutch in 1947 and translated into English in 1952, soon becoming one of the most widely read and beloved stories of all time. One of the most widely-read books in the world,  “The Diary of a Young Girl” has sold 40 million copies in 70 different languages in the last 69 years.

Reading the diary entries can be gut-wrenching, especially knowing what would become of the young girl. But the endless stream of lessons for humanity and the abounding hope that flows from the pages of her diary continue to inspire readers across the globe.

“It’s really a wonder,” she writes, “that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

In the exhibit, selected diary entries are presented alongside eleven free-standing panels that intertwine the major events of the Holocaust with pivotal moments in Anne Frank’s life.

The exhibit also features a replica of the bookcase that hid the entrance to the secret annex in which Anne and her family lived for two years in hiding. Guests can enter the room via the bookcase door to read about her legacy and watch a short film on her life.

While Anne’s diary tells the story of a young Jewish girl’s life in hiding, it does not discuss details of the Holocaust, the Frank family’s decision to go into hiding, or exactly what happened to them after they were betrayed and deported in August 1944. The exhibit fills in these blanks, providing information on Anne Frank’s story before and after her family’s time in the annex.

Like the diary itself, this special exhibit speaks to the universal lessons that the story of Anne Frank and the Holocaust can offer us today. Guests will leave the Museum with a better understanding of the value of human life, the need to protect life, and the importance of standing up for society’s most vulnerable.

By putting a name and a face to the overwhelming scope of destruction, the story of Anne Frank personalizes our relationship to the events of the Holocaust and allows us to look at evil through a new lens, one brimming with hope, courage, and resolve.

Few had the level of resolve as  Anne Frank. “It seems to me,” she writes, “that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.”

“Anne Frank: A History for Today” is open during regular Museum hours until May 31.

Be sure to join us for these additional events related to the exhibit (learn more at DallasHolocaustMuseum.org).

Spring Break Events: March 7 through 25; Explore and learn with family-friendly activities throughout Spring Break.

Theater Performances: March 18 & 19, 2016 at Museum; Conversations with Anne; Two live performances each day at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Exhibit Sponsors: Clampitt Paper, Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District, Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, The Catholic Foundation.

“Anne Frank: A History for Today” was developed by the Anne Frank House and is sponsored in North America by the Anne Frank Center USA.

-Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

A Global Upstander, Ret’d UN Gen. Roméo Dallaire Defied Orders to Retreat and Stood Up to Protect the Vulnerable During Rwandan Genocide

Roméo-DallaireIn April of 1994, retired United Nations Gen. Roméo Dallaire faced a life-and-death choice no human being should be required to make.

He could follow the orders of his UN bosses and lead his 400-plus UN peacekeeping troops in retreat to safety from a Rwandan village where they were likely to come under attack, or he and his troops could stay to protect area villagers whom they were sent to safeguard in the first place – villagers who would otherwise become victims of a genocide underway in Rwanda.

For him, Dallaire said, the choice was easy: He chose to remain and protect the villagers.

A retired Canadian Senator and celebrated humanitarian, the former Lieutenant-General, the Honorable Roméo Dallaire (Ret’d), was the final speaker in the Museum’s Upstander Speaker series before a crowd of 200 at the Mack Ballroom on the SMU campus on Oct. 15.

In her opening remarks, Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins noted that Gen. Dallaire had pleaded with the UN to intervene in Rwanda as the genocide looked imminent, but that his request for intervention was denied. More than 800,000 Rwandans died in fewer than 100 days of the genocide in the spring of 1994.

In fulfilling the ethical obligation to protect those who sought refuge with the UN forces, the actions of Gen. Dallaire and a small contingent of Ghanaian soldiers and military observers, are credited with saving the lives of 32,000 people.

Gen. Dallaire’s courage and leadership during this mission earned him the Meritorious Service Cross, the United States Legion of Merit, and the Aegis Award on Genocide Prevention.

However, as he openly and candidly discusses, the experience left a scar on his life. Dallaire suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder and in 2000, attempted suicide. He is now an outspoken supporter of raising awareness for veterans’ mental health.

“How does one escape the debilitating despair that must follow having your calls for help ignored and being a witness to an atrocity of epic proportions that could have been prevented?” Higgins asked. “It’s beyond me, but somehow Roméo Dallaire has found the strength to advocate for those without a voice.”

Today, Gen. Dallaire advocates ending the use of thousands of child soldiers worldwide as war combatants through his organization, The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.

“Children are a new weapon in this era into which we have entered,” Dallaire said. “This is most troubling weapon system in the world. Children are being used to sustain war. And now we’re seeing them recruited younger and younger. This is quite extraordinary because in the past we would protect children from war. These children, if they survive, become adults, and they’ve grown up in the atmosphere of war, and it is very difficult to break that cycle.”

But through research, training and advocacy, Dallaire said he hopes to break the cycle by turning children into a liability for those who would use them in war rather than an “asset to be sustain conflict.”

Mary Pat Higgins said of Dallaire’s work, “In his writings and public speeches he (Dallaire) often asks, ‘Are all humans human? Or are some more human than others?’ General Dallaire’s challenge to society is for this century to become the Century of Humanity, when we as human beings rise above race, creed, color, religion, and national self interest and put the good of humanity above the good of our own tribe. For the sake of the children and our future. This is what it means to be an Upstander.”

The presenting sponsor for the Upstander Speaker Series is Real Time Resolutions. Trea and Richard Yip, the Harold Simmons Foundation, and The Dallas Morning News sponsored the Gen. Dallaire presentation.

Be sure to make plans to experience the Museum’s current Special Exhibit through the end of the year, “Holocaust by Bullets,” which tells the story of the mass killings of Jews, the murder of Roma and the disabled—and the quest to uncover the truth of the atrocities by he French organization Yahad-In-Unum.

YIU is led by Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest whose grandfather was a French soldier deported to the Nazi prison camp Rava-Ruska, located in a Ukrainian town that borders Poland. Fr. Desbois was one of the Museum’s 2012 Hope for Humanity honorees and was recently featured on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

–Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Young Investigator, “Holocaust By Bullets” is a Never-Ending Search for Truth, Dignity

AlexisFor Alexis Kosarevsky, the newly-hired translator for the French organization Yahad-In-Unum and a native of Ukraine, the moment in 2008 was transformative.

Yahad-In-Unum was founded in Paris in 2004 by leaders in the French Catholic and Jewish communities to locate, map, cover and memorialize the sites of mass graves of Jewish victims of the Nazi mobile killing units during World War II operating in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Poland and Moldavia.

YIU is led by Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest whose grandfather was a French soldier deported to the Nazi prison camp Rava-Ruska, located in a Ukrainian town that borders Poland. Fr. Desbois was one of the Museum’s 2012 Hope for Humanity honorees.

The Museum’s current Special Exhibit through the end of the year, “Holocaust by Bullets,” tells the story of the mass killings of Jews, the murder of Roma and the disabled—and YIU’s quest to uncover the truth of the atrocities.

Alexis Kosarevsky, a project and team leader for YIU, working under Fr. Desbois’ direction, has participated in over 40 investigations in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe—research trips that have uncovered 1,700 gravesites.

At the opening reception of the new special exhibit on Sept. 10, Kosarvesky told of his first assignment—translating the testimony of an eyewitness to a mass killing of Jews in a Ukranian village during World War II by Nazis. The victims had been buried in a nearby, unmarked mass grave.

“Just a few weeks before, I was living a care-free life in Paris, a young bachelor,” Kosarevsky said. “Now, I had just retold the story of one of the worst experiences that I had ever heard in my life—of man’s inhumanity to man.”

During a break for the eyewitness, Kosarevsky said he walked to the edge of the mass grave and found himself speaking out loud. “I said to those buried there, ‘You are not forgotten anymore.’ ”

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 people gathered in the Museum’s Theater, Kosarevsky described the five stages that were part of each Nazi massacre, which are described in detail in the exhibit. All total, about 2 million people were shot and left in unmarked graves.

Tragically, it appears that modern-day massacres in areas such as Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, the Balkans and Syria may be modeled on these village-by-village, on-site massacres perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators.

Neither Yahad-In-Unum—nor he, personally—will stop the quest for properly identifying and memorializing each of the victims, Kosarevsky said. “We say to the killers of the world, wherever you kill the people, we will come back to uncover and document what you have done,” he said.

In her remarks at the opening reception, Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins said, “It is our fervent hope that presenting this exhibit influences all of us to work for a world in which history of this sort cannot repeat itself.”

The special exhibit is presented and sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.

Special thanks to the Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation, for helping the Museum bring Dallas Independent School District students to visit the exhibit; 70kft; Signworks of Dallas; and for their partnership, Yahad-In-Unum and Father Desbois.

Be sure to join us on Oct. 15 for our next Upstander Speaker Series presentation: Ret. Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, former UN peacekeeping force commander for Rwanda at 6:30 p.m. at SMU.

-Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

 

 

 

Factual Survey leaves indelible mark—but for the right reasons

german-concentration-camps-factual-survey-1945-2014-002For the first seven minutes of German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, the audience sat in communal silence.

Literally, not one sound could be heard in the Cinemark 17 Theater in North Dallas as the official British documentary film on the Nazi concentration camps of WWII began to play.

Before the film, Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins warned the 325 people in attendance at the Aug. 3 special screening that the images we were about to watch would be “full of the painful truth” about the atrocities that happened at Nazi concentration and extermination camps—the “starvation, cruelty, murder, misery and suffering . . .”

It was most certainly painful. And, it is why silence seemed the appropriate response to this film: words cannot accurately capture this depiction of man’s inhumanity to man.

Incorporating the work of British, American, and Soviet camera crews, the film documents the liberation of concentration and extermination camps by the Allies as the war in Europe came to a close in April and May 1945.

Alfred Hitchcock, a one-time treatment advisor on the film, suggested the filmmakers avoid tricky editing to enhance the film’s authenticity and credibility. What we are left with are long takes of the most gruesome scenes from the Holocaust: piles of human remains, ashes from the crematoria, and the signs of lives once lived—bags of human hair, wedding rings, spectacles, and toothbrushes.

Footage accumulated for the film would be used in the postwar prosecution of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg and Lüneburg.

Postwar politics and an urgent need to begin the rebuilding of war-ravaged Germany and Britain overtook the film’s production timeline and reflective script.

Consequently, the film was shelved, although excerpts from it were released as part of other Holocaust documentaries after the Imperial War Museum took possession of the rough cut in 1952. Footage, for example, was used in the 1985 documentary, “A Painful Reminder.”

After funding was secured, work to restore and complete the film began in earnest in December 2008. Factual Survey premiered at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. A documentary about the making of the film was later shown on HBO (under the title Night Will Fall) on Jan. 27, 2015, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

In a brief Q&A following the Cinemark screening, local Holocaust survivor Max Glauben said the film depicted the life he experienced in concentration camps, but the true reality of the atrocities, he said, remain difficult to convey. Max said he would rather focus on the positive lessons he learned as a survivor while reminding the world that evil is ultimately a choice made by each person individually.

The film screening was made possible by Cinemark Theatres, which donated the use of the theater, Academic Partnerships and, in part, with a grant from Humanities Texas, the State Affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Join us on September 10 at 5:30 p.m. for the opening reception and lecture for the upcoming special exhibit “Holocaust by Bullets.” Also, please plan to join us on October 15 for our next Upstander Speaker Series presentation: Ret. Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, former UN peacekeeping force commander for Rwanda at 6:30 p.m. at SMU.

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

“Ground Zero 360” Special Exhibit Reminds Us All of the Heroes Who Sacrificed All to Save Others on 9-11

groundzero360Kevin O’Rourke. Moira Smith. Alan David Feinberg.

They were among the first-responders of the 9-11 terrorist attack in New York who sacrificed their lives rescuing others.

David Martin Weiss. Stephen E. Belson. Brian Grady McDonnell.

In all, 343 firefighters and paramedics of the Fire Department of New York; 37 officers of the Port Authority Police; and 23 officers of the New York Police Department perished in the line of duty.

The up close and personal stories of these first responders—and the tragic events of 9-11—are told in an incredibly intimate, emotional and inspirational new special exhibit at the Museum, “Ground Zero 360: Never Forget,” now open through Aug. 25. The New York terrorist attack killed 2,750 people at Ground Zero. First responders helped save about 14,250 people. About 17,000 people were believed inside the twin towers of the World Trade Center when the attacks began.

“You might ask how this exhibit…fits into our Mission, and it’s an easy question to answer,” Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins told a group of about 75 at a special opening night reception for the exhibit, which is free with paid admission to the Museum.

“The 9-11 terrorist attack provides lessons about both the destructive force of hatred and the redemptive power of tremendous heroism, in the face of adversity. There is no better example of the ethical response to hatred than the selfless acts of the 9-11 responders, who put themselves at risk to save others,” she said.

The exhibit displays the work of Nicola McLean, a New York-based Irish photographer who captured powerful images in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Her husband, Paul McCormack, was the presiding New York Police Department Commanding Officer of the 41st Precinct at the time.

Together, over the course of 10 years, the couple created the exhibit in remembrance of the victims of the attacks and in honor of the heroic actions of the first responders who worked tirelessly in the hours, days and weeks that followed.

“Not only did they rush into the crumbling buildings to help people to safety, they worked tirelessly to uncover the remains of victims to help their loved ones find some semblance of closure,” said Ms. Higgins. “Then, in the aftermath of the destruction, they participated in the massive cleanup effort to help the city return to some sense of normalcy, not knowing their exposure to ‘the Pile’ would have long-lasting health implications.”

Walking into the exhibit, a wall of flyers greets the visitor—flyers of smiling faces of the missing with desperate messages from loved ones to contact them—that were posted throughout lower Manhattan in the hours and days following Sept. 11. For those who recall where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, the flyers immediately transport them back to the events of that day.

While the exhibit includes a small piece of I-beam—part of 200,000 tons of steal that collapsed at Ground Zero in NYC—and incredible photographs of the destruction of the attack, it is the stories of first responders that imbue the exhibit narrative with hope, heroism and resilience.

The story of NYPD Patrol Officer Moira Smith, the only female officer of NYPD to die with 22 other officers responding to the attacks, is particularly moving. Her voice is heard on police audio recordings calling for immediate backup—tough to listen to, but compelling for their meaning—which are included as part of the exhibit.

Jimmy Smith, her husband and former NYPD Officer, attended the opening event along with Ms. McClean, Mr. McCormack and Michelle and Tom Mason, both retired NYPD command staff executives who were present at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attacks. Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief Louie Bright III were special guests at the opening event.

As he began his remarks, Mr. McCormack paid tribute to local Holocaust Survivors who were in attendance. “I couldn’t think of a more wonderful place to be than to be with you tonight,” he told the survivors. “You embody what you inspire here. Your mission is to keep the memory alive and to have us never forget…We share that mission with you as we will never forget those who sacrificed everything to save others” on 9-11.

Sponsors for the exhibit include the Communities Foundation of Texas and the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of Dallas. Community Partners include the Center for American and International Law and the West End Association.

Be sure to join us at the Museum on July 23 at 6:30 p.m. for the film presentation, “9/11”. For more information visit, DallasHolocaustMuseum.org

-Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

For Classical Pianist Mona Golabek, a Mother’s Love Yields Lifelong Lessons for All Humanity

Mona Golabek

Mona Golabek

“Each piece of music tells a story,” pianist-author-storyteller Mona Golabek says, “but you have to figure out what the story is.”

And for those who attended the June 10 performance, “An Evening with Mona Golabek,” at the Wyly Theater at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, benefitting the Museum, the story she told simply was amazing.

Through classical piano pieces, projected multimedia photos and images, tastefully recorded sound and spoken narrative, Ms. Golabek told the inspirational story of her mother, Lisa Jura, and her experience as a child of the Kindertransport. The Kindertransport was a British rescue operation at the beginning of World War II that enabled 10,000 primarily Jewish children to escape the Nazis.

To say much more would be to spoil the story, which is told beautifully in Ms. Golabek’s compelling biography of her mother, The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival (with Lee Cohen, Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition, 2003)

You can see an excerpt from Ms. Golabek’s performance here from the 2012 world premiere of The Pianist of Willesden Lane at the Geffen Playhouse, adapted and directed by Hershey Felder.

The themes reflected in Ms. Golabek’s performances are mirrored in the mission of the Museum: to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, and to teach the moral and ethical response to prejudice, hatred and indifference, for the benefit of all humanity.

Following World War II, Lisa Jura became a classical pianist, eventually moving to the U.S. and marrying a French soldier whom she met in Britain during the war, Ms. Golabek’s father.

Daughter followed in mother’s footsteps, becoming a classical pianist herself. Ms. Golabek’s amazing musical talent includes a Grammy nomination. Get Ms. Golabek’s book—filled with music, to be sure—but music that tells a compelling story.

Meantime, make plans to attend a must-see Special Exhibit coming to the Museum.

“Ground Zero 360: Never Forget” displays the work of Nicola McLean, a New York-based Irish photographer who captured powerful images in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Her husband, Paul McCormack, was the presiding New York Police Department Commanding Officer of the 41st Precinct at the time. Together they created the exhibit in remembrance of the victims of the attacks and in honor of the heroic actions of first responders who worked tirelessly in the hours, days, and weeks that followed.

On the exhibit’s opening day on July 2, the Museum will honor first responders from the North Texas community by hosting a First Responders Open House from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., providing free admittance with funding from Communities Foundation of Texas donors. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided. The launch day activities continue that evening with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by a lecture from McCormack.

McLean and McCormack, who met shortly before 9/11 and later married, worked together over the course of 10 years to create the exhibit. Comprised of moving visual and audio elements, the exhibit allows patrons to gain perspective and reflect on what New Yorkers experienced during this tragic time.

-Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

 

For the Chief Rabbi of Poland, the “Spark of the Jewish Soul” Reignites the Jewish Community in Country Decimated by the Holocaust

Rabbi Michael Schudrich

Rabbi Michael Schudrich

In 1939, Poland was home to a thriving Jewish community of 3.5 million people—folks who made their households and livelihoods in cities, villages and farms across the vast country.

Six years later, barely 300,000 Jews survived in Poland.

The Holocaust—and the Nazi’s Polish-based death camps—resulted in the murder of 3.2 million Jews from Poland, some 90 percent of the country’s Jewish population.

Repercussions of this crime against humanity continue today, but there is renewed hope in Poland for Jews. And Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the American-born Chief Rabbi of Poland, may well be the No. 1 reason why.

Rabbi Schudrich was the special guest of the Museum’s Upstander Speaker Series on June 4 at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas. Appointed Chief Rabbi of Poland in 2004, he has played a central role in the country’s Jewish Renaissance. Indeed, since the fall of Communism in 1989, a growing number of Poles have learned of their Jewish roots, and Rabbi Schudrich is the person they often turn to for guidance.

“We cannot change the number of Jews who were murdered in Poland,” Rabbi Schudrich told the crowd of more than 250 at the JCC. “But, we can change the number of Jews who are out there and have yet to discover their identity.”

Today, about 25,000 Jews call Poland their home. As Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Schudrich spends much of his time counseling people who have discovered—or who are trying to determine whether—they are, in fact, Jewish.

After World War II, most Jews living in Poland who survived the Holocaust left the country—many to Israel—and those who remained were forced to hide their Jewish identities under Soviet Communism.

For Jews living in Poland, “From 1939 to 1989, everything that happens tells you it’s not safe to share your Jewish identity with your children and grandchildren,” Rabbi Schudrich said. “ But in the last 26 years (since the fall of Communism), we’re seeing these children and grandchildren have their hidden secrets now revealed because it is safe—that they are, in fact, Jewish, and there is great hope and optimism.”

These revelations of newly found Jewish identity—Rabbi Schudrich called it the discovery of “the spark of the Jewish soul”—are transforming lives and, albeit slowly, Poland itself. Rabbi Schudrich was one of three Jewish leaders in Poland recently awarded prestigious Bene Merito Medals in recognition of their actions in promoting Poland abroad.

Born in New York City, Rabbi Schudrich attended Jewish day schools there and graduated from Stony Brook University in 1977 with a Religious Studies major and received an MA in History from Columbia University in 1982. He received Conservative smicha (rabbinical ordination) from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and later, an Orthodox smicha through Yeshiva University from Rabbi Moshe Tendler. He served as rabbi of the Jewish Community of Japan from 1983 to 1989 before moving to Poland in 1992.

A rising level of anti-Semitism is an issue throughout Europe, Rabbi Schudrich said, but Poland is making great strides in building strong Jewish-Catholic relationships. “I prefer to emphasize what’s working in Poland,” he said. “Good things are happening, and I am an optimist at heart.”

Be sure to join us for our next Upstander Speaker Series on October 15 when Lieutenant-General Roméo Antonius Dallaire, a Canadian humanitarian, author and retired senator and general, will be the special guest. Dallaire served as Force Commander of UNAMIR, the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994, and attempted to stop the genocide that was being waged by Hutu extremists against Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

The Upstander Speaker Series is sponsored by Real Time Resolutions and is supported by The Dallas Morning News, G&H Ventures, LLC and Humanities Texas. This project was made possible through a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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And, don’t miss out on seeing the Museum’s Special Exhibit, “The Wartime Escape,” which chronicles Margaret and H.A. Rey’s (creators of Curious George) escape from the Nazis. The exhibit closes on June 20.

-Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

For Michael Sam and America, History That Moves All of Us Forward

Michael Sam

Michael Sam

The yellow double triangle, with an appearance like that of the Star of David, and the pink triangle—Rosa Winkel in German—were part of the complex color-coded Nazi concentration camp badges. The yellow was used to identify Jews; the pink was used to identify male prisoners who were sent there because they were homosexuals.

Between 1933 and 1945, about 100,000 German men were arrested as “criminal” homosexuals and about 50,000 were convicted and sent to prison. After 1942, an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 German homosexuals were sent to concentration camps where an unknown number of them died.

Indeed, the hatred practiced by the Nazi regime—responsible for the systematic murder of six million Jews and five million others during the Holocaust—was the first thought of Michael Sam, who made history in 2014 as the first openly gay man drafted into the NFL.

Sam, who is currently appearing on ABC-TV’s Dancing With The Stars while he awaits what he hopes will be another chance to play in the NFL, spoke to a sold-out crowd of 200 at a special Museum’s Upstander Speaker Series event held at the Communities Foundation of Texas auditorium on March 26.

“The Holocaust is probably the most absolute worst crime against humanity,” began Sam, 25. “This event is nothing we should ever forget, and the work that you all do here is absolutely critical. We must remain diligent to make sure nothing like it ever happens again. Against the backdrop of your work, I’m not sure there’s anything else I can say that compares.”

Introduced by WFAA-TV Sports Director and Anchor Dale Hansen—whose “Hansen Unplugged” commentary on the prejudice Sam faced when Sam came out as a gay man generated international news coverage and a high-profile appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show last year—Sam continued:

“Ever since I came out about a year ago, people have called me a hero and courageous. For the record, I do not consider myself either. I was just simply owning my truth. My name is Michael Sam and I’m a person of passion and intensity. I am a football player, a friend, a son, a fiancée, and I am a gay man.”

“The courageous heroes are the many people, especially the youth of today, who are being bullied or harmed, both physically and psychologically, everyday because of their race, religion, or sexuality. They have the courage to go out every single day and face all that they must and pursue their dreams no matter what the obstacles.”

But, Sam said, he can relate to these youth. Growing up the seventh of eight children in Hitchcock, Texas, along the Gulf Coast, Sam faced a tough childhood filled with adversity and suffering.

“I had brothers who bullied me, and I had a family who wasn’t always there for me,” Sam said. “Football gave me everything I have today. It gave me the structure I needed in my life, it gave me my teenage years, it gave me the chance to show off my athletic ability, and most importantly it gave me the opportunity to attend the University of Missouri. My friends and teammates became my family, and football became my sanctuary.”

But he wasn’t just any football player. He was a standout player for the Mizzou Tigers. At the end of his senior season, Sam was named the Southeastern Conference co-Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the All-SEC First Team. He was also named a semifinalist for three other major college football awards.

Early projections had Sam going in the third or fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft. Then Sam came out as a gay man—something his accepting Mizzou teammates already knew and hadn’t cared about. They knew him as an exceptional performer and teammate.

But when draft-day came, it seemed as if the NFL wasn’t as accepting of Sam’s talent. He was the 249th player taken out of 256 drafted. When ESPN TV cameras captured his emotional response to being drafted by the St. Louis Rams—a lifelong dream that he celebrated by kissing his boyfriend (and now fiancée), Vito Cammisano—it didn’t go over so well with some past and current NFL players who took to social media to spew prejudice and discrimination.

Sam made his professional football debut in a preseason game on Aug. 8 against the New Orleans Saints. In four NFL preseason games with the Rams, Sams made 11 tackles and three sacks, including a game-leading six tackles in the final game. Yet, on Aug. 30, the Rams cut Sam. Within days, the Dallas Cowboys had added Sam to their practice squad. On Oct. 21, he was cut again. He is hopeful that he will play in the NFL one day soon

Sam said, “I am proud to be able to play a small part in the NFL and LGBT history by being the first openly gay man to enter into the league. But it is not what I set out to do, and I’m not done yet. I truly believe we are making the world a better place and more tolerant place. I have been welcomed into locker rooms, meeting rooms, and living rooms.”

Sam has received the ESPY’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award and the Human Rights Campaign’s Upstander Award, and he has been named a finalist for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.

Meantime, Sam said, his focus will remain on helping youth of today accept themselves for who they are and on teaching the moral and ethical response to hatred, prejudice and indifference for the benefit of all humanity—the mission of the Museum.

“Hatred and violence against LGBT Americans is wrong, just as hatred and violence against black Americans is wrong, just as hatred and violence against Jewish Americans is wrong,” Sam said.

“The moment we let hatred and violence go unchecked in our society, we become weaker as a people. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to push back, to stop prejudice, when we see it.”

“I am proud to stand in this room with so many people committed to this cause to do just that. Despite all the incredible strides we have made in the last century or so, recent events have proven to us that more work needs to be done. I issue all of us a clear and direct challenge: let’s answer hate with love, let’s answer darkness with light, let’s answer intolerance with understanding.”

In his introduction of Sam, Dale Hansen cited a famous quote by the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, who once said, “We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make.”

Said Hansen: “Michael Sam is making it a better future for our kids. We need more Michael Sams in America.”

Please make plans to join the Museum on June 4 for the next guest of the Upstander Speaker Series, Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, who is playing a key role in the “Jewish Renaissance” of Poland.

And, be sure to visit the current special exhibit at the Museum (through June 20), “The Wartime Escape,” which recounts the WW II escape of Margret and H.A. Rey, creators of the Curious George series.

-Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Curious George Escaped the Nazis

showposterChildren’s author Louise Borden was, well, curious.

In 1995, while reading Publisher’s Weekly, the trade magazine of the book industry, Ms. Borden ran across an item about Margret Rey, the writer and illustrator known best for the Curious George series of children’s picture books that she and her husband, H.A. Rey, created from 1939 to 1966.

The short item noted how the Reys had escaped Paris in 1940, just ahead of the Nazi invasion of France, on bicycles and carrying a backpack with the manuscript of what would become the impetus for the first Curious George book.

The notice stirred the curiosity of Ms. Borden.

Had the Reys’ escape from wartime France ever been written about before? What route had the Reys followed to make their getaway? How did the Reys eventually end up publishing their series of books with one of the leading publishers in the U.S.?

So begins the story of author Louise Borden’s journey that concluded with the 2005 publication of The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey (now available in paperback from HMH Books for Young Readers), which chronicles the real-life escape of the Reys.

The book is the basis of the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s current special exhibit, “The Wartime Escape Margret & H.A. Rey’s Journey from France,” now through June 20th. Admission to the special exhibit is free with regular paid admission to the Museum.*

Ms. Borden was the special guest speaker on Feb. 12 at the opening reception for the new exhibit.

“I love the world of children’s books, and I loved telling this story,” Ms. Borden told a crowd of about 85 people who attended her presentation in the Museum Theater.

Curious George first appeared in 1941, published by Houghton Mifflin. The book begins with George living in Africa and tells the story of his capture by the Man with the Yellow Hat, who takes him on a ship to “the big city” where he will live in the zoo. Six other “original series” titles followed, and today, the books, which include more modern story lines, have sold more than 30 million copies in multiple languages.

The Reys were German-born Jews who most assuredly would have been captured by Nazis and deported to concentration or death camps.

In her presentation, Ms. Borden traced the Reys escape from Paris, through Spain, to Portugal, to Argentina and eventually to New York City, where the Reys lived in Greenwich Village to be close to their publisher and, later, following huge success with the Curious George book line, in Cambridge, MA near Harvard Square and at a charming New Hampshire farm.

Most of the research for the book on the couple’s wartime escape took place at the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. When Margret Rey died in 1996 (Hans had died in 1977), her will designated that the entire literary estate of the Reys be donated to the de Grummond Collection. In 1966, Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond, a professor in the field of library science at USM, had contacted Mrs. Rey about the university’s new children’s literature collection and, well, the rest is history.

Many fascinating angles emerged from her research, Ms. Borden said, including the fact that Curious George had first been named “Fifi. In 1939, the Reys had signed a contract with the French publisher Gallimard for “Fifi” and other stories. As it turned out, the cash advance the couple had received would later finance their escape to South America.

In October 1940, the Reys sailed to New York, settling first on Long Island with relatives before moving to Manhattan. A year later, the book about “Fifi,” who had been renamed “George”—the publishers thought it a more appropriate name for a male monkey—first appeared.

“George was a name that would become memorable for generations to come,” Ms. Borden said. And so it remains.

Several activities for families are planned in conjunction with the special exhibit, among them:

-Get Curious at the Dallas Zoo, Feb. 22, 2015, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

-Spring Break with Curious George at the Museum, March 9-13, 11 a.m.

-Get Curious at Klyde Warren Park, Sunday, May 3, 2 p.m.

-Art Competition for Student Groups: Reception & Judging, May 10, 10 a.m.

A special Teacher’s Workshop is also planned for March 12. More information on the workshop may be found on the Museum website.

The Benefactor Sponsor for the event is Fox Rothschild LLP. The Friend Sponsor is the Janis Levine Music Women and Children’s Endowment Fund of the Dallas Jewish Community Federation. Community Partners include the Dallas Zoo, Klyde Warren Park and the Dallas Theater Center.

This project is supported in part by an award from Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

 *Please note that the Museum’s core exhibit is recommended for children age 11 and older.

–Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

 

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