Members of the Sunny Isles Beach City Commission recently attended a meeting focusing on “A Legacy of Remembrance” and the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center’s mission to build South Florida’s first Holocaust Museum.
The Aventura Marketing Council luncheon at Christine Lee’s at Gulfstream Park hosted by attorney Russel Lazega of Florida Insurance Advocates featured guest speaker Howard Finkelstein, Broward Public Defender.Lazega, Finkelstein, Sunny Isles Beach Mayor Norman S. Edelcup, Sen. Gwen Margolis and many other business and community leaders serve on the Board of Directors of the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center – dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the authentic memory of the Holocaust through documentation, commemoration and education. The Center is currently spearheading initiatives to build a Holocaust Museum preserving and conveying the story of the Holocaust through survivor eyewitness testimonies and interactive displays enabling visitors to understand how hatred, prejudice and bigotry can lead to genocide. “South Florida has the world’s third largest population of Holocaust Survivors, behind only Israel and New York,” Center leaders explain. “We have conducted over 2,500 interviews with South Florida’s witnesses to the Holocaust. These oral histories provide the core of the Center’s collections, which have grown to become the world’s largest self-produced, standardized Oral History Library Collection and serves as an invaluable international resource
“The Museum we envision will feature the eyewitness testimonies of our South Florida Survivor community, and special attention will be given to the story of what happened as the infamous ship, the S.S. St. Louis, sailed past the shores of Miami Beach.
“For the sake of those who are no longer with us and for those yet to come, the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center is instituting a Legacy program. We are challenging ourselves to raise $6,000,000 in memory of the 6,000,000 to build the Holocaust Museum and ensure the memory of the Holocaust will never be erased from history. Commitments will be permanently and prominently inscribed on the Naming Wall of the Museum as a testament to your family and the authentic memory of the Holocaust.”
During the event at Christine Lee’s, Lazega shared the heroic Holocaust story of his own grandmother.“She helped her husband escape from a French labor camp, sneaking him out under-guard in the dead of night in pouring rain. After he joined the French resistance, she walked three small children over the Pyrenees Mountains in the freezing winter to escape to France.”
Finkelstein, the renowned Broward Public Defender and legal analyst whose Help Me Howard segments are featured on WSVN Channel 7 News, recounted the time he was invited to speak at a Holocaust Education and Documentation Center event uniting students with Holocaust survivors.
“I walked into a room with kids from every high school across the country and at each table was a Holocaust survivor. I watched and what I saw was absolute magic. Suddenly, these 15 and 16 year old kids didn’t look across the table and see ‘some old guy or old woman’ sitting there – they saw themselves at the age of 15 huddled in the woods shivering. They saw themselves as their mothers and fathers were ripped from their arms and executed. In that instant, they understood the moral imperative and obligation that every child of God has to every other child of God to make sure that genocide never happens again and the world ‘never forgets.’” “Survivors are a very special breed. They are like no other people you’ve known. What they experienced is unique and outrageous in its horror. As I was walking out of that [student awareness event] a colleague said to me, ‘Howard, I didn’t know about this.’ I asked, ‘You didn’t know about this program or the Holocaust Education and Documentation Center?’ She responded, ‘No, I didn’t know about the Holocaust.’ This is a woman educated in our public schools who has been working in government for 25 years. It was in that instant I realized that any way I could help [create awareness] I would.
“We must build a living museum so those who gave their lives will live on forever. If we don’t preserve the memory and remember the lessons, the promise ‘all men are created equal’ will be vanquished. Do something impactful and important for those who came before – so those who come after can live in the glory of the promise that America offers to all of God’s children.” Discussing the crucial importance of preserving “equality and justice for all,” Finkelstein noted, “[Due to current economic conditions], the promise of the right to counsel and equal justice is seriously at risk of disappearing. As we have to tighten our belts, we must ask ourselves, ‘Is justice something we are willing to do on the cheap – or does justice have an overarching importance because it defines who we are as a people?’ If there isn’t equal and fair justice than the promise of America is hollow.
“As we get closer to this thing called ‘justice’ we can all be proud to stand anywhere in the world and say, ‘I’m an American and I believe that all of God’s children are equal; and justice is not for sale.’ Those who toil in law enforcement and the justice system deserve admiration and respect. Never doubt that we have so much to be proud of – but never doubt that the job isn’t even close to being done.”
‘SUNNY ISLES BEACH REMEMBERS’
According to Rositta Ehrlich Kenigsberg, President of the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, when Sunny Isles Beach held its first historic “Survivors of the Holocaust” program conceived by Mayor Edelcup in 2004, Sunny Isles Beach became the only city since World War II to locate every one of 300 survivors residing in a city to be honored in this manner. Kenigsberg, whose own father was a Holocaust survivor, attended the dedication ceremony where she noted, “I commend and laud the City of Sunny Isles Beach for this wonderful and special gesture in recognition of this group who despite of their tragic and painful past have not become embittered or filled with hate…They chose life not death; remembrance not vengeance; hope not despair; goodness not evil. And love, not hate. May we all live in the light of these virtues and always REMEMBER.”
For more information about the Holocaust Education and Documentation Center, call 954- 929-5690 or visit www.hdec.org.