On April 1, Join Us for the Kick-off of Big D Reads With 2016 Featured Title “The Diary of A Young Girl”

big_d_reads_anne_frank_posterJoin us at the Museum this Friday for the kickoff of Big D Reads – a read-in event from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at which community leaders will read selected passages from this year’s featured title, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.

A community service project throughout the month of April, Big D Reads seeks to engage the Dallas community in a city-wide reading experience as well as special events such as educational discussions and read-ins that tie into Anne Frank’s inspirational story.

Friday’s Read-In event takes place at the Museum in the “Anne Frank: A History for Today” exhibit area.

In order to engage readers of all ages in Big D Reads, companion books have also been selected, among them Dr. Suess’ Sneetches; Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, and Eric Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts. These works are all available for checkout at the Dallas Public Library.

The Dallas Public Library and the Friends of the Dallas Public Library are organizing this year’s Big D Reads event in partnership with the Dallas Independent School District and the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

For more information, visit BigDReads.org

 

 

Hope for Humanity: Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

hrilogoHuman rights is the reason America was created, say Betsy Healy and Bill Holston of the Human Rights Initiative (HRI) of North Texas.

The right to asylum—under which another sovereign authority, such as the United States, may protect a person persecuted by their country—is one of the most important and urgent of rights. The right belongs to all people under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by world governments in 1948 in response to the Holocaust.

“International human rights is an obligation we have as Americans,’’ said Healy, an attorney who co-founded HRI in 1999 and served as its first Executive Director. HRI provides legal and support services to legal immigrants and those already in the U.S., seeking refugee status. Many of HRI’s clients have fled religious, racial, or political persecution. In addition, HRI offers assistance to victims of human trafficking, domestic abuse and neglect through their Women and Children’s Program.

Healy and Holston, also an attorney, were featured speakers at the Museum’s 2016 inaugural Upstander Speaker Series event on March 10 at the Communities Foundation of Texas, “Human Rights Initiative of North Texas: A Conversation.”

Joining them on the panel were Kavita Khandekar Chopra, Marketing & Development Director for HRI, and Kane Cortez, an HRI volunteer. Dr. Sara Abosch, Senior Director of Education at the Museum, moderated the panel.

Gaining asylum status for an immigrant is painstaking, arduous and time-consuming legal work, says Holston. Asylum-seekers must not only undergo extensive interviews to prove their claims of human right abuses under very specific criteria to a U.S. immigration investigator, but they must also prove such claims in a separate court action before a U.S. immigration court judge who ultimately decides whether to grant asylum to the immigrant.

Relying on a large and loyal cadre of local volunteer attorneys to represent about 550 asylum-seeking clients, HRI wins about 85 percent of its cases.

“We simply could not achieve the success we have achieved for our clients without our volunteer attorneys,” Holston said. “This is very difficult work involving some of life’s worst experiences.”

Holston is blunt in his assessment of the U.S. immigration system. “We don’t have a functioning immigration system,” he said. “In this country, we pay for what we value, and we don’t value a humane immigration system that promptly processes claims for asylum in a timely manner. Consequently, too many asylum seekers are living their lives on the sidelines awaiting action from a broken system.”

The true hope in providing legal work for asylum seekers, Healy said, is in the spirit of clients whose lives are sources of inspiration to all who work with them. “They are people whose lives and values embody all the characteristics that make us Americans,” she said. “We are beyond fortunate to be able to work with them.”

Special thanks to the Communities Foundation of Texas for hosting the event.

Make plans now to join us on April 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum to hear Simon Grownowski, Holocaust and 20th Deportation Train Survivor, who will speak about his childhood during the Holocaust, including his escape from the 20th deportation train as it left Kazerne Dossin, a Belgian deportation camp, for Auschwitz, as well as his experience as a hidden child for the remainder of the war.

Then, on May 14, join us at 11 a.m. for “Anne Frank at the Dallas Arboretum,” a hands-on, family-friendly activity exploring the theme of nature in Anne Franks The Diary of a Young Girl. The Dallas Arboretum is located at 8525 Garland Rd, Dallas, TX 75218.

And, if you haven’t yet had a chance, be sure to visit the current special exhibit, Anne Frank: A History for Today. For more information on Museum activities, visit our website.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join us for Spring Break at the Dallas Holocaust Museum

annefrankeventbritegraphicExplore and learn with family-friendly activities throughout Spring Break in conjunction with our latest special exhibit, “Anne Frank: A History for Today.”

Each program features readings from The Diary of a Young Girl, followed by a short discussion and learning activity. The Spring Break programs will be held Mondays through Thursdays, March 7 through 24 at 1:30 p.m. Be sure to RSVP.

On March 12, we are pleased to hold our inaugural Girl Scouts Day at the Museum, which will focus on the life of Anne Frank. Each activity correlates with a different age group and Girl Scout badge. Reservation required.

9:30 a.m.   – 11:00 a.m. Scribe Badge (Juniors)

10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Finding Common Ground Badge (Cadettes)

11:30 a.m. –  1:00 p.m. Truth Seeker Badge (Seniors)

Be sure to join us on March 18 and 19 for the theater performances, “Conversations with Anne.“

In collaboration with the Anne Frank Center USA, the Museum will present four performances of Conversations with Anne, a 40-minute performance with an actor in the role of the young writer, followed by a Q&A session where children can ask “Anne” questions about her life before the war and in hiding. Showtimes are each day at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tickets available at Eventbrite.

“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. Exhibit sponsors of at the Dallas Holocaust Museum are Clampitt Paper, Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District, Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs and The Catholic Foundation.

-Chris Kelley for The Dallas Holocaust Museum

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.

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.

HTx_logo_color_trans_HiRes

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