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November 07, 1986 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-11-07

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Continued liwn preceding page

tions, sponsoring films and cultural
events, planning memorial services
and visiting schools, are ample evi-
dence of their genuine commitment
to the educational goals of the HMC.
We have achieved an enormous
amount," says HMC vice president
Lawrence Jackier, but were we not
to do more than that, it would be
very wrong. We have the potential
to be the single most effective educa-
tional tool in the community. We
should, and could, act as beacon of
communal relations in southeast
It is awareness of HMC's poten-
tial and its commitment to quality
and leadership which underlies the
critical rumblings which can be
heard, particularly among those
closely concerned with Holocaust
education, including some of the
HMC's own member ship. Acknow-
ledging that its activities are limited
to some extent by financial consider-
ations, they nevertheless wonder if
the HMC is making sufficient use of
its available resources; if the design,
moving as it is, could not be made
more educationally effective; if
enough effort is being made in edu-
cational outreach and the
encouragement of research; if it is,
in all ways, a model for other cen-
ters, or if there are some lessons to
be learned from others.
Education is an avowed priority
for most Holocaust centers. "Memo-
rials are nice, but education is the
name of the game," says Darren
Breitbart, senior researcher at the
Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los
Angeles, whose proposed new
museum will place its emphasis on
education through participation. "It
will be an 'active museum' where
the visitor has to do more than just

look and listen," says Breitbart. A
high-tech approach will include the
use of computer games, similar to
the Life-Chance exhibit at the HMC.
Many smaller centers with
limited financial resources put all
their effort into educational out-
reach. The Pittsburgh center, for
example, has no museum, but acts
as an educational resource center,
lending materials to schools and
teachers, developing educational
programs and curricula for use in
schools and sponsoring dramas and
musical events, art and writing
competitions. These projects have
proved very successful, says director
Dr. Edie Naveh.
So far, at the HMC, the main
thrust of educational promotion has
centered on the physical facility. The
interior design of the museum is the
work of British architect James
Gardner, who also designed Beth
Hatefutsoth — the Nahum
Goldmann Museum for the Diaspora
in Tel Aviv. It is intended to "allow
the history of the Holocaust to
gradually sink in, not to overwhelm
the visitor," says Rosenzveig.
Entering through the somber
doors and walking down the dar-
kened ramp, visitors embark on a
symbolic descent into darkness (a
concept which is also being incorpo-
rated into the plans for the New
York Holocaust memorial). This is
intended to begin a sense of in-
volvement which deepends as vis-
itors progress through the depiction
of Jewish cultural life and the
gradually increasing Nazi menace,
to the horrors of the camps, the
ghettos and the death marches.
While no-one doubts that most
people are very moved by the
museum, some critics' wonder if it
stimulates the feeling of personal

involvement with the past which ex-
perts agree is one of the hallmarks
of any successful museum, and cru-
cial to one dealing with the
Holocaust if it is to reinforce the
message that there are no innocent
bystanders to immoral atrocities.
They would like, for example, to see
larger projection of the black and
white documentary footage, re-
placement of the unfamiliar and pre-
cise British accents of the narrators
by American voices and more ex-
hibits like the Life-Chance to
encourage a participatory rather
than a spectator response to the
powerful material which has been
Most HMC staff, however, think
the design works very well. "It is dif-
ficult to walk through it without a

feeling of being there, of being sur-
rounded by the whole experience,"
says Gloria Ruskin.
"Different groups show a variety
of responses," agrees Judith Miller,
"but I've never seen one leave not
awed." Miller herself finds the
museum more effective than Yad
Vashem. Its intimacy and size, she
says, without diminishing the mag-
nitude of the Holocaust, concentrates
responses on a very personal level.
Impact surveys and question
naires, the comments in the visitors'
book, the vivid reactions to the sur-
vivors, and letters suggest that for
many people the experience of the
museum leaves a deep and lastin
"The response to a museum is
bound to be subjective," says Jac-

A storage room cluttered with materials.

kier. "It would be impossible to per-
fectly please everyone. No museum
can do that. We assembled as
talented a team of designers as we
could find in the world, and having,
agreed on the basic concepts, left \I
them the artistic freedom to do their
job. And it's a gem."
Several plans for expansion are
under consideration or underway,
among them the addition of exhibits
on Jewish resistance and on the lack
of U.S. effort to rescue Jews.
At the HMC's second anniver-
sary dinner this Sunday, the Ber-
nard L. Maas Garden of the Right-
eous will be dedicated. The garden
marks the first step in plans to de-
vote more attention to the efforts of-'
Gentiles who risked their lives to
help Jews. A new wing is planned to
house the "Institute of the Right-
eous" which will, hopes Rosenzveia,./
"give young people a model to emu- \\-,
late. We have already demonstrated
the lowest point to which humanity
can stoop. We want to show that
there were a few righteous who show
how high it can reach, and that their
behavior should be the standard for
the future."
Work is also being done on
software which will enable people to
get print-out information on the
Jewish communities destroyed in the
Holocaust. "I should like, eventually, j
to do a section on each of these
communities," says Rosenzveig, "to

Part-time assistant Hanna Klein works in the not-completely-sorted library.

Continued on Page 20

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