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Local Holocaust Center for Humanity focuses its efforts on educating the community

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Jacqueline Chao
Laurie Cohen, special projects director at the Holocaust Center for Humanity, shows student journalist a Teaching Trunk, which is sent to public schools across the state to properly educate children on the Holocaust.

On April 7, three Octagon staffers competed in the Online News Package contest at the National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle, Washington.

Their assignment was to create a multimedia news package about the Holocaust Center for Humanity.

Three years ago, former social studies teacher Linda Elman came out of retirement to become a docent at the Holocaust Center for Humanity (2045 Second Ave.) in Seattle, Washington.

It is the only museum in the Pacific Northwest dedicated to the Holocaust.

The non-profit organization’s aim is to inspire teaching and learning in the schools and communities of the region.  

But it didn’t get its start as a museum, but rather as an educational operation.

In 1989, local Holocaust survivors formed the group to combat the rising Holocaust-denial movements that were gaining popularity in the late ‘80s, business manager and administrative assistant Ashton Wright said.

“They believed the best way to combat the denialists was to properly inform the public,” Wright said.

The group reached out to schools in the area to help assist in the teaching of the Holocaust.

Back then, their main resource to educate was “Teaching Trunks,” and they’re still greatly utilized today.

Its a chance to tell a story that I think is very important”

— Linda Elman, former social studies teacher

“If you’re in a public school and want to learn a new topic, you’re not going to have [resources] needed to learn it,” Education Associate Laurie Warshal Cohen said.

So to get the schools the resources they need, the center sends care packages with books, maps, teaching guides, etc. to help teachers.

The idea came was borrowed from a Holocaust Museum in Houston, Texas, Cohen said.

The program began with a grant from Costco which gave the institution three trunks to use.

And the program has grown immensely from its birth.

In 2016, 128 trunks were sent to schools across the Pacific Northwest.

The foundation has expanded past just trunks and visiting schools to teach. In October 2015, the organization opened a museum in downtown Seattle.

The museum allowed the Holocaust Center for Humanity to host survivors and display exhibits.

One of their most popular exhibits was dedicated to Anne Frank, it had just over 15,000 visitors.

But the museum doesn’t charge admission, only a suggested donation of $10.

As a non-profit, donations and volunteers keep the museum up and running.

Last year, the foundation received $1.1 million in donations and grants.

The large funding allows the organization to continue to pursue its primary goal: outreach.

“We want to get bigger,” Wright said.

The museum has connected with public and private schools in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Alaska.

And this summer it is sending speakers on a trip to Alaska.

“We’re getting more ambitious,” Wright said.

The society isn’t just trying to expand out of state but also right here in Seattle.

In the upcoming months, every officer in the Seattle Police Department will come to the museum to learn about the Holocaust.

“They’re going to learn about the police forces during the Holocaust,” Wright said. “They weren’t responsible for the Holocaust, but they didn’t do anything to stop it.”

With the museum continuing to expand and impact lives, it relies on dedicated volunteers who care, like Elman.

“It’s a chance to tell a story,” Elman said. “A story that I think is very important.”

By Adam Dean, Jack Christian and Jacqueline Chao

 

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