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April 25, 2003 - Image 75

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-04-25

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Setting Goals

For national Holocaust museum, money
and relevance are key challenges.

he chairman of the U.S.
Holocaust Memorial
Museum Council, Fred
Zeidman, sees a wide
range of new goals for the institution
as it enters its second decade.
"We are truly at a watershed point
in the museum's history," Zeidman
told JTA in a recent interview. "The
first 10 years were truly the honey-
moon period. When the museum
opened, people — knowing the need
for this museum — really were
incredibly forthcoming philanthropi-
cally, and the survivors were all here
to tell the story."
Fundraising remains constant even
with the survivor generation in its
twilight, Zeidman said, but the chal-
lenge of spreading the museum's mes-
sage takes on a new urgency.
A longtime ally and fundraiser for
President Bush, Zeidman was nomi
nated to the council - chairmanship by
the president last year. He has
pledged to keep politics out of muse-
um operations, while maintaining a
focus on the Holocaust itself.
"We've got to keep this story alive;
we've got to make it breathe,"
Zeidman said. "There are 2 million
people a year that come to the muse-
um," but "there are so many people
who can't come to the museum.
"We've got to take it to the rest of

this country. There are 280 million
people in this country, every one of
who needs to be knowledgeable about
what we do here," he said. "We need
to be America's national educator."
Toward that end, Zeidman said he
wants to increase teacher-training
programs, work with more museums
with traveling exhibitions and
increase existing cooperation with law
enforcement officials.
Police officials in Georgia, for
example, are speaking with the muse-
urn about setting up daylong training
visits similar to existing programs
with departments from Maryland,
Virginia and Washington.
"We've got to take it to the people
with the greatest potential to impact
society, the caretakers of democracy,
the educators, the law enforcement
officials, the judiciary, the military,
the civic leaders," Zeidn-ia.n said.
In addition to the yearly Days of
Remembrance ceremonies in April, a
number of special events are planned
for this year
In June, to honor the anniversary
year, the museum will sponsor a new
exhibit of some original writings of
Anne Frank, the first time the writ-
ings will be shown outside of
Amsterdam's Anne Frank House.
In late summer or fall, the museum
will host a special night for Holocaust
survivors and their families.
That will arguably be the last time
that this will ever happen," Zeidman

number of traveling exhibitions, and
more than 350 Washington school-
children, most of them African
American, have participated in the
"Bring the Lessons Home" program,
a project that includes a summer
internship and educational classes.
At the close of the program, the
students use their training to lead
community members on a tour of
the museum.
The museum also has become a
model for the new generation of
Washington museums. Its success
helped spur the development of
Washington's National Museum of
the American Indian and the
planned National Museum of African

American History and Culture.
Holocaust museum offkials have met
with the planners of those other
efforts to lend their help, Zeidman
"This broke the ground for that
kind of place," Talisman said. "There
had been attempts for decades to
build an African-American history
Officials planning the construction
of a Sept. 11 memorial in New York
also visited the museum recently to
gather ideas.
Over the next decade, one of the
main challenges for the museum will
be maintaining its Jewish character.
After all, survivors originally had

Jewish Telegraphic Agency


said. "We'll have a special night so
that survivors can bring their chil-
dren and grandchildren and hopeful-
ly tell their stories and show the
museum to their kids. There has
been a tremendous reticence on the
part of so many survivors to truly
tell their story."
But, Zeidman said, the museum
has given many people a chance to
tell their stories, keeping the institu-
tion's research department busy.
"We're trying to record every story
we can possibly get," he said of the
research efforts. "The real problem is
that we don't have a lot of time left."
Noting that the museum so far has
weathered the nation's economic
downturn, Zeidman said he sees a
bright financial future for the museum.
"I've been pleasantly surprised," he
said. "I'm not hearing, 'I'm not giv-
ing this year because the stock mar-
ket's down; I'm not giving this year
because I had to give to Sept. 11.
I'm not giving this year because I'm
crivincr to Israel,'" he said.
"The more money I can raise pri-
vately, the less dependent I am on
the federal government," Zeidman
said, adding that a "key goal" of the
coming decade was to raise an
endowment for the museum.
As for the fear that the Holocaust
may be seen to lose relevance with
every passing year, Zeidman said
that the history the museum repre-
sents remains as important as ever.
The incidences of terrorism and
Sept. 11 are bringing the reality of
this kind of activity home," he said
"It's just reinforcing the importance
of telling our kids, 'Let me tell you
what happens when this starts and
we don't do anything about it.'" El

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worried that in opening a national
museum on federal land, the
Holocaust might be enshrined as an
event that included Jews, rather than
a specifically Jewish event.
"They were still ready to take the
risk," said the national director of
the ADL, Abraham Foxman, a sur-
vivor who sat on the Holocaust
council while the museum was
planned and launc*1.
But Foxman admitted that he and
other survivors still worry that future
generations maintaining the museum
might reduce its Jewish content.
"How do we make sure 20 years
from now that Shoah' is a word that
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