The heavy equipment I can see from my office window is moving us toward the much anticipated opening of our Larry & Mary Greenspon Campus for Jewish Life. The campus will be an oasis of learning, celebration, remembrance, and respectful exchange, where all are safe emotionally, culturally and physically. The campus will also enable The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee to meet one its key objectives: serving as the region’s center of excellence for Holocaust education.
Florida is one of 20 states that mandates Holocaust education in K-12 schools. Florida maintains this mandate because there is no clearer, more poignant way to teach what happens when a society abandons the free and respectful exchange of ideas and allows hatred to triumph.
Never during our lifetimes has it been more urgent to share the lessons of the Holocaust. The American values of moderation and tolerance are straining as weaponized partisanship and social media echo chambers starve American society of broadly shared, trusted information and leaders.
Our Federation is a trusted resource for local Holocaust education. Federation professionals Bette Zaret and Lindsey Mintz serve as key advisors to both the Sarasota and Manatee school districts. We partner with teachers and administrators across the region by providing accurate and age-appropriate curricular resources, teacher training and support, access to our Holocaust Survivors Speakers Bureau, and experiential programs, including The Daffodil Project and World Kindness Day.
In recent years, the Federation has supported six teachers from Sarasota and Manatee schools to participate in educational study tours to Poland, where they visited concentration and death camps.
The Chaifetz Holocaust Memorial Garden will make our campus the centerpiece of our partnership with schools and community organizations. Thanks to the vision, leadership and generosity of Edie and David Chaifetz, the memorial will promote awareness of the evils of hatred, antisemitism and prejudice, and will inspire ethical behavior. Edie is the daughter of Holocaust survivors; their family legacy will ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust are never forgotten.
The Chaifetz Holocaust Memorial Garden will include beautifully landscaped pathways around a tranquil lake, with Holocaust-themed sculptures and spaces for reflection.
Educational stations will guide visitors on a journey beginning with Jewish life before the war, honoring the experience and memory of the 6 million Jews who perished during the Holocaust, lifting up the stories of our local survivors, and recognizing the courage of righteous “upstanders” and liberators who saved lives.
The garden’s walk will conclude with the birth of the Jewish State of Israel, whose founding was made possible by refugees from and survivors of the Holocaust.
We look forward to welcoming school groups, families, civic leaders, tourists and Holocaust survivors and their children. Visitors will choose from a range of tools for self-guided tours, opportunities for docent-led tours, as well as the pleasure of strolling the garden just for its beauty. To ensure that the experience is age-appropriate, plaques will contain different QR codes for children in elementary school, secondary school and adults.
We plan to open the Chaifetz Holocaust Memorial Garden next summer.