Hello, world!

As you may have noticed, we here at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh blog have been MIA (and by we, I mean I, Jackie, have been MIA). To make up for it, I will be sharing three posts this week to get caught up:

  • The first, to discuss last week’s study released in the New York Times;
  • The second, to give you a bit of an update on all of the work we’ve been doing over the past week or so (and by we, I actually mean all of us this time);
  • And the third, to hopefully will get you excited for what we have coming up next!

Catching Up, Part I: A Sobering Study

Currently, the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh has a staff of 4.5 people, and yet we run about 17 different educational programs and average about 40 events per year. We often describe ourselves as “small but mighty”. This past week (which I’ll describe more in tomorrow’s post) stretched us to our capacities and required a whole lot of that might.

That being said, on Yom HaShoah, this article was published by the New York Times describing findings from a survey by the Claims Conference which included the following statistics:

  • Nearly one-third of all Americans (31 percent) and more than 4-in-10 Millennials (41 percent) believe that substantially less than 6 million Jews were killed (two million or fewer) during the Holocaust
  • While there were over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, almost half of Americans (45 percent) cannot name a single one – and this percentage is even higher amongst Millennials
  • Most Americans (80 percent) have not visited a Holocaust museum

I considered posting about this as the second or last of the three blogs I publish this week, but all that we do begins and ends here. This is why programs I’ll talk about in part II, the Waldman International, Yom HaShoah, and learning exchanges with local schools, matter. This is why we are collaborating to put on the various events described in part III, which will be targeted toward various audiences across the city.

These many programs and events are different avenues to reaching as many people as possible and achieving our mission: educating about the events of the past and connecting them to today.

As you, our patrons, readers, supporters, read these words and the others we post on our various social media, I hope you will take the findings of this study seriously and help us. We cannot get the word out without your help. We are always looking to engage with new audiences, and there’s still much that needs to be done.

More often than not, I find many who didn’t realize Pittsburgh had a Holocaust Center (to the point that, when I started working here and they heard my new job title, folks thought I was moving to Washington D.C.). It’s kind of funny, until you realize that it means there are probably people of all ages who think–unnecessarily–that they are far from or do not have access to resources, when really they do.

If you are reading this in a different city, chances are there is a Holocaust center or museum closer to you than you realize–and chances are, they could use your support to amplify their voice, too.

It’s too easy to dismiss history as the past, or to wonder why we must persist in speaking of what we all assume people know about. But when I got home after our Yom HaShoah commemoration, I found a comment on one of our posts calling it the “Holohoax” and asking “who is making money off of this?”. 

After working personally with the survivors, hearing their stories, looking into their eyes, I could not help but feel the hatefulness cut right into my heart. And it hurt really, really badly. People are actually bold enough to say–to believe!–these words while the survivors of the horrors are alive to tell of them. Obviously there is still so much more that needs to be done.

The meaning of the Holocaust is not exclusive to Jews. Not only were Jews not the only victim group, but there are more broadly applicable narratives we continue to see playing out in the present day: “othering” those with religious and ethnic differences, abuse of power, and silence/neutrality in the face of oppression.

In the words of Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” And in the words attributed to Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

I urge you to read this article from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which explains in more detail why this work matters. To check out these many community resources for educating and taking action. And to get involved in our many programs, many of which are free and all of which are low-cost.

And of course, I hope that you make a plan to come out to see us soon.


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