Sunday, January 9, 2011

Arizona Holocaust Museum One Step Closer

Last night, I attended the fundraiser at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Chandler, Arizona. The mayor of Chandler, Boyd Dunn, opened the event by asking for a moment of silence in regards to the tragic earlier incident of the day in Tucson, where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several staffers and constituents were shot at a community event.

He then went on to share about how the new Holocaust museum will bring economic activities to the city of Chandler, “a city of tolerance,” he said. We were told that several other cities were interested, but the mayor championed the project big time and ultimately won.

85-year-old Holocaust Survivor, Helen Handler, then addressed the crowd of about five hundred, where she described her experiences as a Hungarian teenager in Auschwitz. Although I’ve heard Helen speak on more than one occasion, a new takeaway struck me when she shared that most of the time, she couldn’t even communicate with others in the camps – they were all from different countries with different languages and backgrounds.

The new museum will eventually be built on a piece of land next to the East Valley Jewish Community Center, after significant dollars are raised. Steve Tepper, the head of the East Valley JCC, next awarded Helen with a plaque and told her that a grant her in name would fund a group of underprivileged students to take a trip to Israel to attend Yad Va Shem, the Holocaust Museum in Israel.

We then saw, Rene & I, a film about twins who survived experiments in Auschwitz. If you think this film would be disturbing, you are right. However, it was also amazing to see the resilience of the main characters and how six years after the Holocaust, they were united and taken into the same adoptive family and lead as normal and productive lives as anyone, even though, Irene, the female twin ended up with MS, likely as a result of her childhood experiences in the camp.

Chompies hosted a delicious reception after the event, and I finally got to meet one of the owners. Donald Tucker, a former US Marshall for the district of Arizona, has a new book out called The Two Edged Sword about his life and is also working on a mystery with a main character named Wendy, after his wife. We were introduced by another local author, Marsha Fine, and her husband Dr. Skip. Marcia told me she is working on a revised edition of her inspiring book, Paper Children. Driven by cataclysmic world events, the story encompasses the lives of three generations of women.

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