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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘museum’

Anti-Trump Jews Petition Against Simon Wiesenthal Museum Founder Attending Inauguration

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance, is one of six religious leaders who were invited take part in President Elect Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony January 20 (That’s Tevet 22 to you and me).

Which is why Mya Stark, a businesswoman from Los Angeles, is calling on the Hebrews to sign her petition which she titled: “Rabbi Marvin Hier: do not offer a ‘prayer’ at Trump Inauguration.” No idea why she put quotes around the word prayer.

President George W. Bush appointed Hier to serve on the Honorary Delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008. He is working on a A $100 million Museum of Tolerance and Human Dignity to be built in Jerusalem.

Inaugural Committee Chairman Tom Barrack said that “since the first inaugural ceremony, our leaders have paid tribute to the blessings of liberty that have been bestowed upon our country and its people,” which is why “I am pleased to announce that a diverse set of faith leaders will offer readings and prayers at the swearing-in of President Elect Trump and honor the vital role religious faith plays in our multicultural, vibrant nation.”

“I am shocked and dismayed to see no such protest from Jews over Rabbi Marvin Hier’s agreement to deliver a ‘prayer’ at the Inauguration. Hier is the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, named for the heroic Nazi-hunter, and the Museum of Tolerance – normalizing Trump with his participation will turn these organizations into a mockery and be a shame on the Jewish name forever.”

To justify her bizarre ire, Stark pulls the tried and true KKK card, writing: “Apparently, Hier thinks it is acceptable to legitimize and collaborate with a political figure who the KKK is literally marching in the streets to celebrate.”

Don’t forget Vladimir Putin and Naftali Bennett…

“Even more shameful and disgusting,” she continues, “it has just been revealed that the Simon Wiesenthal Center under Hier has been the recipient of donations from Jared Kushner (Ivanka Trump’s husband) family foundation.”

Note the absence of an explanation as to why a donation from the Kushner foundation is impure. Stark relied on a hatchet job report by Judy Maltz in Ha’aretz Monday, which revealed to the world the shocking facts about the Kushner donation, and using – for irony – the fact that the Weisenthal Center 2016 list of “Top 10 Worst Global Anti-Semitic Anti-Israel Incidents” had in the No. 5 spot white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, “who celebrated the Trump victory with a Nazi-style salute.”

Looks like guilt by association is back in style big time.

Stark reaches a kid of height of chutzpah when she concludes: “Rabbi Hier, redeem your name and the name of the important organizations you lead by dropping out of the Inauguration proceedings,” and, “Simon Wiesenthal Center, take disciplinary action against Hier if he refuses to desist from this shameful action.”

We’re actually looking forward to hearing the good rabbi. The petition, incidentally, as of Wednesday, is still shy of 1,000 signatures.

JNi.Media

Philly Jewish Museum Posts Huge Sign Reminding Americans of Freedom of Religion

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH), located on historic Independence Mall in Philadelphia, has installed new building signage asserting George Washington’s promise of religious liberty to the people of the United States.

Quoting Washington’s iconic letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island in 1790, the enormous banner reads, “Happily the Government of the United States … gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” The Museum—a safe, open space for all—displays this text as a timely reminder of the ideals of inclusiveness on which this nation was founded.

Facing Independence Mall as it does, in the heart of historic Philadelphia, the Museum’s signage refers to one of the most significant documents in American history. George Washington’s letter, currently on view at NMAJH, was composed in August 1790 in response to a letter from the Jewish community of Newport. In it, Washington affirmed rights denied to Jews for millennia and underscored the nation’s commitment to respecting religious liberty and equality for people of all faiths. Washington described his vision of a country in which “every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

“George Washington’s call for religious pluralism is especially powerful today, given the rise in expressions of bigotry and exclusion in recent months,” states Ivy Barsky, NMAJH’s CEO & Gwen Goodman Director. “Just as Washington fervently promised to preserve this nation’s acceptance of all people, the National Museum of American Jewish History remains committed as ever to our mission of inspiring a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American experience and the invaluable contributions to this country by immigrants.”

JNi.Media

Guatemala Holocaust Museum First in Central America

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

Located in a colonial-era house in Guatemala City, Guatemala, the Museo del Holocausto will be the first Holocaust museum in Central America. When it opens officially, in early 2017, the museum’s permanent collection will focus on the “Holocaust by Bullets.”

Between 1941 and 1944, more than 2 million Jews were massacred when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. Because of the region’s inadequate railway systems the Nazis were unable to easily transport the Jews to the camps. Instead, mobile execution units gathered, shot and killed the Jews outside their homes. Soviet villages became execution sites and local villagers became executioners and witnesses.

After the executions, the Nazis buried their victims in mass ditches and continued on to another village. With bodies and bullets beneath the ground, the perpetrators left behind little indication of what had taken place. Some of the murderers were tried in Nuremberg, some in the West and East Germany, but many remain unaware of the magnitude of those mass executions.

Israeli Artist Mira Maylor’s exhibit “Memories of the Holocaust through Art” debuted at the Guatemala Holocaust Museum in November, and will be on display through February 28, 2017. Maylor’s take on memory is displayed in a series of 18 pieces. Israeli Ambassador to Guatemala Moshe Bachar spoke at the show’s opening and the Israeli Embassy in Guatemala supported the exhibition.

JNi.Media

Little Arab Attention as Yasser Arafat Museum Inaugurated

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday inaugurated the Yasser Arafat Museum in a shiny new building in the Muqata compound in Ramallah, marking the 12th anniversary of the late chairman’s death. Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas, Arab League Secretary General Ahmad Abul Ghait and his predecessor Nail Al-Arabi, and former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdel Salam Al-Majali attended the opening ceremony.

Not your A-list by any stretch, and yet Ahmad Suboh, director of the Yasser Arafat Foundation, nevertheless insisted that the attendance by Abul Ghait “is a message that the Palestinian cause is still the first cause of the Arabs and is highly appreciated.”

Construction on the two-story museum began in 2010. It covers an area of 26 acres and cost close to $7 million to build. The museum features photos, looped video, explanatory texts, documents and Arafat’s personal effects, including the Nobel Peace Prize he won following the signing of the Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel in 1993.

The museum depicts Arafat’s role in the rise of “Palestinian” nationalism as a reaction to the arrival of Zionism. However, as Isabel Kershner notes in the NY Times, “the story ends abruptly with his demise, without any conclusion, reflecting his ultimate failure in achieving his goal of Palestinian independence, whether through diplomacy or the gun.”

Nasser al-Kidwa, Mr. Arafat’s nephew and the chairman of the Yasir Arafat Foundation, told the Times “the idea is to have a cultural, educational as well as commemorative institution. We have tried to do it in as accurate a way as possible, without exaggeration or understatement.”

The museum repeated the lie that Arafat was born in Jerusalem, when he was actually born in Cairo, Egypt. Kershner doesn’t correct that error in her report.

And, speaking of understatement, Kershner reports that “Abbas seems to be featured only when unavoidable, like in a picture of the signing of the 1993 Oslo agreement on the White House lawn.” Or, as Kidwa put it, “When he was there, he was there.”

JNi.Media

NY Jewish Museum Celebrates French Designer, Architect Pierre Chareau

Monday, November 7th, 2016

The Jewish Museum presents the first US exhibition focused on French designer and architect Pierre Chareau (1883–1950). Showcasing rare furniture, lighting fixtures, and interiors, as well as designs for the extraordinary Maison de Verre, the glass house completed in Paris in 1932, the exhibition brings together over 180 rarely seen works from major public and private collections in Europe and the United States.

Pierre Chareau rose from modest beginnings in Bordeaux to become one of the most sought-after designers in France. Creating custom furniture and interiors for a distinguished clientele that included leading figures of the French-Jewish intelligentsia, Chareau balanced the opulence of traditional French decorative arts with interior designs that were elegant, functional, and in sync with the requirements of modern life. His innovative furniture, veneered in rare woods with occasional touches of exotic materials, had clean profiles and movable parts that appealed to the sensibilities of the progressive bourgeoisie.

Installation view of the exhibition Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design / Photo credit: Will Ragozzino/SocialShutterbug.com, Courtesy the Jewish Museum

Installation view of the exhibition Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design / Photo credit: Will Ragozzino/SocialShutterbug.com, Courtesy the Jewish Museum

Between the wars, Chareau designed primarily for a cultured urban elite, and many of his patrons were Jewish. With the German occupation of Paris in 1940, his many Jewish clients were forced to leave. Chareau, whose wife Dollie Dyte Chareau was Jewish and whose mother came from a Sephardic family, fled to the United States. The exhibition will also explore the enduring consequences of Chareau’s flight from Nazi persecution, the dispersal of many of the works he designed during and after World War II, and his attempts to rebuild his career while in exile in New York during the 1940s.

Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design proposes a fresh look at the internationally recognized designer and examines his work in the Parisian cultural context between the wars to highlight his circle of influential patrons, engagement with the period’s foremost artists, and designs for the film industry. Together with his wife Dollie, Chareau was an active patron of the arts, and the exhibition reunites several pieces from their collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings by significant artists such as Piet Mondrian, Amedeo Modigliani, Jacques Lipchitz, and Max Ernst.

The exhibition also addresses Chareau’s life and work in the New York area, after he left Paris during the German occupation of the city, including the house he designed for Robert Motherwell in 1947 in East Hampton, Long Island.

Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design, November 4, 2016 – March 26, 2017. The Jewish Museum, 1109 5th Ave at 92nd St, NY.

JNi.Media

Will Detroit’s Historic Holocaust Museum Stay True To Its Mission?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Of the many local and regional Holocaust memorials and museums scattered across America, one stands out among the best: The Holocaust Memorial Center in suburban Detroit.

For me, the legacy and future of the institution is personal.

Correctly billed as America’s “first Holocaust museum,” the Detroit enterprise was conceived fourteen years before the dominant United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. was even commissioned by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. The Detroit museum opened its original doors at its first location in suburban West Bloomfield, Michigan in 1984. The Washington museum opened its doors in 1993.

Although there are currently scores of Holocaust museums and memorials throughout America, the museum in suburban Detroit, when it debuted, was nothing short of historic. It stood as the first freestanding museum in the country devoted to the subject.

This extraordinary project was the dream of Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzveig, a Polish Holocaust survivor, in tandem with a local congregation of fellow survivors possessing visionary and fiery determination to not only document the heartless brutality of the twelve-year Reich war against the Jews but to understand the underlying socio-economic and political causes powering the Nazi genocides.

Hence, Rabbi Rosenzveig and I always enjoyed a special rapport. We shared the same fire and felt the same burn. In my case, it propelled me to write books on these topics, documenting corporate collusion and ethnic collaboration that made a life-and-death difference to so many.

Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me several times to lecture at the museum on American corporate involvement with the Third Reich and the ethnic factors that facilitated the destruction of six million Jews. This included documenting how IBM co-planned and co-organized the Holocaust with its punch card processes, as well as the involvement of General Motors and Henry Ford.

That the museum allowed me to speak freely on the latter was a courageous act in a city where those two automobile companies were headquartered and maintained powerful influences in the community.

The museum became known for more than just lectures; its extraordinary exhibits delved into the heartless economics that fueled Hitler’s Germany. Rabbi Rosenzveig and I shared an uncanny realization of what was at stake. More than just stimulating memory and sorrow, the challenge was to prod deeper thought about the consequences of corporate connectivity with death machines.

We also shared a common heritage. Rabbi Rosenzveig was from Poland, lost nearly all his family, and told me he was not even sure how old he was. My parents were from Poland. We lost nearly all our relatives, and my parents were likewise unsure of how old they were.

When Rabbi Rosenzveig and I sat together in the museum, the conversation was often just silence and the unspoken certitude that passes noiselessly between two people who understand the agony of a common mission. No need for convincing, but plenty of commiserating. Our job was to inform about the worst and inspire the best for those confronting the Holocaust – the rabbi devoted to his work in Detroit and me speaking around the world on my works and my research.

When the new, larger, dramatically more architectonic museum opened in nearby Farmington Hills, it set the standard for such edifices. Many said the structure resembled a death camp, and drivers passing by complained that its very appearance made them uncomfortable. In 2003 the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Should a Museum Look as Disturbing as What It Portrays?” The article asserted that the center “may be the most provocative Holocaust memorial of them all,” with its stark exterior suggesting electrified wire and the bleak walls at Auschwitz.

Rabbi Rosenzveig was actually fond of the impact his structure made. He did not believe in making an uncomfortable topic more palatable.

We both shared a fear that the Holocaust could happen again. In 2006, years before the Iran nuclear threat leapt onto front pages everywhere, Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me to speak at the museum’s annual gala. That night, I used the term “Second Holocaust” and warned it could be enabled by petrodollars fueling the Iranian nuclear program.

The idea was to enunciate this warning in Detroit, where gas-guzzling vehicles were still being manufactured. I felt it was ever more appropriate given Detroit’s unique status as the one U.S. city most pivotal to buttressing Nazism – thanks to Henry Ford’s gift to Hitler of an “international Jewish conspiracy” that rationalized his quest to expunge Jewish existence across Europe, and GM leaping to its role as “the arsenal of Nazism” with its manufacture of Blitz trucks, JU-88 airplane engines, Panzer tank motor parts, torpedo heads, and land mine components.

The 2006 gala evening competed with a major sporting event, and my comments were cut short due to the abundance of speakers and the truncated schedule. But the rabbi whispered in my ear that the museum wished to have me back to deliver the fuller message about Iran and a potential Second Holocaust.

Two years later, in July 2008, presidential candidate John McCain echoed the same fear I expressed that night. Referring to Iran’s nuclear program, McCain declared, “The United States of America can never allow a second Holocaust.”

Rabbi Rosenzveig died later that year. A Congressional resolution lauded him as one who “endured and bore witness to the horrific atrocities of the Holocaust.”

During his tenure he elevated the Detroit museum to one of international stature and helped many scholars. For example, he worked with renowned Paper Walls author David Wyman on a special volume, The World Reacts to the Holocaust, a massive tome published in 1996 by Johns Hopkins Press. Rabbi Rosenzveig was listed as co-author, and Wyman paid tribute to him in the foreword as the man who “originated the concept of the book.” Wyman also saluted the Detroit center for being the first freestanding Holocaust museum in America.

After Rabbi Rosenzveig departed, he was succeeded by the Holocaust scholar Guy Stern, who had also worked on the Wyman book. He is still with the museum and now heads up its Harry and Wanda Zekelman International Institute of the Righteous.

Stern is hardly the only longtime devoted staffer at the museum. The center maintains a valuable library archive under the baton of Feiga Weiss.

In 2012 I returned to Detroit for a museum co-sponsored two-event visit. I updated my 2006 warning about the Iranian nuclear program in a presentation at a nearby synagogue. In the museum auditorium we helped set the stage for a global recognition of the Farhud, the 1941 Arab-Nazi pogrom in Baghdad. This was referred to by some as the long-overlooked Sephardic Kristallnacht.

While the idea was bold and new when explored within the walls of the museum in 2012, it eventually caught traction worldwide. Last year, together with Jewish leaders in a live-streamed global event at the United Nations, we proclaimed International Farhud Day. This year, on the 75th anniversary of the pogrom, special commemorations were held in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.; in New York in a Manhattan synagogue; in a London synagogue attended by diplomats and dignitaries; and in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

With its special place in American Holocaust commemoration and documentation, the Detroit center must be preserved as it was intended to be and as it has been from its first day – a torch of Holocaust enlightenment that flickers the reminder “Never Again.”

Too many Holocaust memorials have lost their original identity and now are devoted to both the Holocaust and genocide in general, or simply to global genocide.

Don’t get me wrong; as one who plumbs the dark recesses of the genocide of many groups throughout history, I know that all those shameful chapters must be thoroughly illuminated to reduce the chance of their repetition. Holocaust research and memorial centers need to bring those chapters within their walls; otherwise, “Never Again” is just a slogan rather than a fateful warning to the world.

But we in the Holocaust community do this best when we conserve Holocaust remembrance and the uniqueness of the Holocaust as an unparalleled and unique twelve-year onslaught perpetrated worldwide in broad daylight with headlines blaring.

Recently it emerged that Detroit’s Holocaust Memorial Center is contemplating changes. The institution is now being directed by Cheryl Guyer, who holds the unusual title of both “interim director” and “director of development.” This means her two hats cover both the soul of the museum and fund-raising – two spheres that aren’t always in sync. (Rabbi Rosenzveig went against conventional economic wisdom when he created the museum.)

Guyer confirmed to me that the museum and its board are undergoing a period of what she called “new strategic thinking and transition.” She refused to elaborate. Asked again, she steadfastly refused to comment, saying, “We are not ready to talk about it.” In the ensuing days, Guyer declined to respond to several e-mail and voice requests for further information.

The museum’s official media spokesman, Glenn Oswald, one of the most affable and responsive publicists in the field, who promoted my earlier events at the museum, was contacted. He too declined all comment and failed to respond to several voice mails and e-mails attempting to gather ordinary background information about the museum. So no one knows just what changes or transitions are in store.

Despite the wall of silence, it has been learned that a new director is being considered to assume the museum’s top leadership slot next year as part of the transition. According to museum sources, a local rabbi with a distinguished record is under consideration. That process is now in full swing. Until a decision is made, the museum continues to remain mum about its plans.

Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust museums, built with community money, belong to the survivors and their succeeding generations. The boards of directors of such museums are mere trustees of the legacy. They don’t own it. They don’t even rent it. They are custodians.

Guyer should therefore check with the community before any “strategic thinking and transition” is announced or implemented, and shine the light of openness upon what is in store. Survivors and their descendants hold the trademark on Holocaust memory. For many, the mark is tattooed on their forearms; for many others, it is permanently written in their hearts.

Edwin Black

Detroit Holocaust Museum Enters New Phase but Stays Strangely Mum

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Of the many local and regional Holocaust memorials and museums scattered across America, one stands out among the best: The Holocaust Memorial Center in suburban Detroit. For me, the legacy and future of the institution is personal.

Correctly billed as America’s “first Holocaust museum,” the Detroit enterprise was conceived fourteen years before the dominant United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. was even commissioned by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. The Detroit museum opened its original doors at its first location in suburban West Bloomfield, Michigan in 1984. Subsequently, the Washington D.C. museum opened its doors in 1993.

Although there are currently scores of Holocaust museums and memorials throughout America, the museum in suburban Detroit, when it debuted, was nothing short of historic. It stood as the first free-standing museum in the country devoted to the topic. This extraordinary project was the dream of Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzveig, a Polish Holocaust survivor, in tandem with a local congregation of fellow survivors possessing visionary and fiery determination to not only document the heartless brutality of the twelve-year Reich war against the Jews, but to understand the underlying socio-economic and political causes powering the Nazi genocides. Hence, Rabbi Rosenzveig and I always enjoyed a special rapport. We shared the same fire and felt the same burn. In my case, it propelled me to write books on these topics, documenting corporate collusion and ethnic collaboration that made a life and death difference to so many.

Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me several times to lecture at the Museum on American corporate involvement with the Third Reich and the ethnic involvement that facilitated the destruction of six million Jews. This included documenting how IBM co-planned and co-organized the Holocaust with its punch card processes, as well as the involvement of

General Motors and Henry Ford — a courageous act in a city where those two automobile companies were headquartered and maintained powerful influences in the community.

More than just lectures, the Museum became known for its extraordinary exhibits which delved into the heartless economics that fueled Hitler’s Germany. He and I shared an uncanny realization of what was at stake. More than just stimulating memory and sorrow, the challenge was to prod deeper thought about the consequences of corporate connectivity with death machines.

We also shared a common heritage. Rabbi Rosenzveig was from Poland, lost nearly all his family, and told me he was not even sure how old he was. My parents were from Poland. We lost nearly all our relatives, and the two brave teenagers that became my parents were likewise unsure of how old they were. When Rabbi Rosenzveig and I sat together in the Museum, the conversation was often just silence and that unspoken certitude that passes noiselessly between two people who understand the agony of a common mission. No need for convincing but plenty of commiserating. Our job was to inform about the worst and inspire the best for those confronting the Holocaust–the rabbi devoted to his work in Detroit, and my speaking around the world on my works and my research.

When the new, larger, dramatically more architectonic museum opened in nearby Farmington Hills, it set the standard for such edifices. Many said the structure resembled a death camp, and drivers passing by complained its very appearance made them uncomfortable. In 2003, the Wall Street Journal published an article, “Should a Museum Look as Disturbing as What It Portrays?” The article asserted that the center “may be the most provocative Holocaust memorial of them all,” with its stark exterior suggesting electrified wire and the bleak walls at Auschwitz. Rabbi Rosenzveig was actually fond of the impact his structure made. He did not believe in making an uncomfortable topic more palatable.

We both shared a fear that the Holocaust could happen again. In 2006, a decade ago, years before the Iran nuclear threat leapt onto the front page everywhere, Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me to speak at the museum’s annual gala. That night, I used a never-before mentioned term— “A Second Holocaust” — and warned it could be enabled by petrodollars fueling the Iranian nuclear program. The idea was to enunciate this warning in Detroit, where gas guzzling vehicles were still being manufactured. I felt it was ever more appropriate given Detroit’s unique status as the one city most pivotal to buttressing Nazism — thanks to Henry Ford’s gift to Hitler of an “international Jewish conspiracy” that rationalized his quest to expunge Jewish existence across Europe, and GM leaping to its role as “the arsenal of Nazism” with its manufacture of the Blitz trucks, JU-88 airplane engines, Panzer tank motor parts, torpedo heads, and land mine components.

The 2006 gala evening competed with a major sporting event that evening, so my comments were cut short due to abundant speakers and the truncated schedule. But the rabbi whispered in my ear, the museum wished to have me back to deliver the fuller message about Iran and a potential Second Holocaust.

Two years later, presidential candidate John McCain echoed the same fear I expressed that night. In July 2008, running against Barack Obama and focused on Obama’s position on the Iranian nuclear program, Republican contender John McCain declared, “The United States of America can never allow a second Holocaust.”

Rabbi Rosenzveig died later that year, in December 2008. A Congressional resolution lauded him as one who “endured and bore witness to the horrific atrocities of the Holocaust.”

During his tenure, he elevated the Detroit museum to one of international stature. He helped many scholars. For example, he worked with renown Paper Walls author, David Wyman, on a special volume, The World Reacts to the Holocaust, a massive tome published in 1996 by John Hopkins Press. Rabbi Rosenzveig was listed as co-author, and Wyman paid tribute to the rabbi in the forward as the man who “originated the concept of the book.” In the book, Wyman saluted the Detroit center for being the first free-standing Holocaust museum in America. The book and Rabbi Rosenzveig’s contributions were hailed, with one reviewer writing that the book was an “innovative study,” adding, “It is beautifully researched, well written, and beautifully (even elegantly) published. We owe a debt of gratitude to its editor and contributors for raising a question no one had previously asked.”

After Rabbi Rosenzveig departed, he was succeeded by the Holocaust scholar Guy Stern. Stern served as interim director. He had also worked on the Wyman book. Stern, who escaped Nazi Germany, was globally known for his expertise on the Holocaust and had received the Grand Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his academic accomplishments. Stern is still with the Museum, and now heads up the Center’s Harry and Wanda Zekelman International Institute of the Righteous.

Stern is hardly the only long-time devoted staffer at the Museum. The center maintains a valuable Library Archive under the baton of Feiga Weiss. Rabbi Rosenzveig, personally employing the perspective that only a survivor can muster, did a number of the pivotal video interviews.

In 2012, I returned to Detroit for a Museum co-sponsored two-event visit. I completed and updated the 2006 warning about the Iranian nuclear program in a presentation at the nearby synagogue. In the Museum auditorium, we helped set the stage for a global recognition of The Farhud, the 1941 Arab-Nazi pogrom in Baghdad that attempted to exterminate the Jews of Baghdad. This was referred to by some as the long-overlooked Sephardic Kristallnacht. While the idea was bold and new when explored within the walls of the Museum in 2012, it eventually caught traction worldwide. Last year, together with other Jewish leaders in a live-streamed global event in the United Nations, we proclaimed International Farhud Day. Earlier this year, on the June 1, 2016 75th anniversary of the pogrom, special commemorations were held in the House of

Representatives in Washington, D.C., in New York in a Manhattan synagogue, in a London synagogue attended by diplomats and dignitaries, and also in the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem. While this observance is now globally known, the Detroit Museum boldly confronted the topic four years earlier.

With its special place in American Holocaust commemoration and documentation, the Detroit center must be preserved as it was intended to be and as it has been from its first day — a torch of Holocaust enlightenment that flickers the reminder, “Never Again.”

Too many Holocaust memorials have lost their original identity and transitioned to an institution which devotes itself to both Holocaust and genocide, or simply to global genocide. As one who plumbs the dark recesses of the genocide of many groups throughout history, from Herero Africans to Romanian Gypsies to the Ottoman Armenians, I know that all of these shameful chapters must be thoroughly illuminated to reduce the chance of their repetition. Holocaust research and memorial centers need to bring those chapters within their walls to document the similitude of blood and suffering at the hands of madmen. Otherwise “Never Again” is just a slogan and not a fateful warning to the world. We in the Holocaust community do this best when we preserve intact and conserve Holocaust remembrance and the uniqueness of Holocaust identity as an unparalleled and unique twelve-year onslaught perpetrated worldwide in broad daylight with headlines blaring as a propaganda ministry issued press releases.

Recently, it has been learned that Detroit’s Holocaust Memorial Center is contemplating changes. The institution is now being directed by Cheryl Guyer, who holds the unusual title of both “interim director” and “director of development.” This means her two hats cover both the soul of the museum and fund-raising — two spheres that aren’t always in sync. Rabbi Rosenzveig went against conventional economic wisdom to create the Museum.

When contacted by this writer, Guyer confirmed that the museum and its board is now undergoing a period of what she called “new strategic thinking and transition.” She refused to elaborate. When asked again, she steadfastly refused to comment, saying, “We are not ready to talk about it.” In the ensuing days, Guyer declined to respond to more than eight email and voice requests for further information for this story.

The Museum’s official media spokesman, Glenn Oswald, one of the most affable and responsive publicists in the field, who promoted my earlier events at the museum, was contacted. He too declined all comment and failed to respond to several voice mails and emails attempting to gather ordinary background information about the Museum. So no one knows just what changes or transitions are in store — and what direction they may go.

Despite, the wall of silence, it has been learned that a new director is being considered to assume the Museum’s top leadership slot next year as part of the transition. According to Museum sources, a local rabbi with a distinguished record is under consideration. That process is now in full swing. Until a decision is made, the Museum

continues to remain mum about its plans. No one knows what the “transition” is — or what prompts the continued reticence.

Holocaust remembrance and the museums everywhere, built with community money, belong to the survivors and their succeeding generations. After all, it was their suffering, indelible stories, and unforgettable nightmares that excavated the depths beneath the concrete foundations, the walls, and exhibits. The boards of directors of such museums everywhere are mere trustees of the legacy. They don’t own it. They don’t even rent it. They are custodians.

Therefore, Guyer should check with the community before any “strategic thinking or transition” is announced or implemented, and shine the light of openness upon what is in store. Survivors and their descendants hold the trademark on Holocaust memory. For many, the mark is tattooed on their forearms; for many others, it is permanently written in their hearts.

Edwin Black

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/detroit-holocaust-museum-enters-new-phase-but-stays-strangely-mum/2016/10/07/

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