Holocaust Center is continuing the work Tess Wise started
January 15, 2021
After reading articles in the recent edition of Heritage and past issues, as well as national press coverage of the Uprooting Prejudice exhibit at HMREC, I couldn’t help but realize that many of the people commenting and criticizing HMREC for hosting the exhibit, were not aware that from the very beginning of its existence, the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center supported programming on two tracks in order to fulfill its mission. On one track, they successfully brought Holocaust education to the local schools, trained teachers and made the general public aware of the history and horror of the systematic targeting, torture and murder of millions of Jews in Europe. To this day they continue to fulfill that function of their mission through their programs. On the second track, they use the lessons gleaned from the Holocaust to try to prevent it from ever happening again to Jews or any other minority or ethnic group, by working to not only combat antisemitism, but also racism, ethnic cleansing, genocide, hate speech and more.
I can remember Tess Wise coming to a Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando board meeting, probably in 1994, and asking for the board to endorse a resolution recommended by the HMREC board regarding the genocide in Rwanda. She came again (probably 1998) with another resolution about the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo. I doubt these were the only times, but those are the ones I recall. I also remember attending an exhibit at the Center, created in partnership with the Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture about the relationship of our two local communities, Jewish and African American. I don’t recall anyone complaining or criticizing any of these activities. No one thought they “diluted” the mission of the Holocaust Center. If we are to be “A light unto the nations” we need to share the lessons our history and our suffering as a people have taught us. I think the Holocaust Memorial Education and Resource Center is continuing the work Tess Wise started. It is doing that by following her desire for it to be an institution that not only commemorates the Holocaust but also teaches the lessons of the Holocaust by making us all sensitive to the bigotry and atrocities that occur locally, nationally and around the world.
past president, Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando