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April 26, 2011

U.S. Holocaust museum pushes West Coast visibility

http://www.jewishjournal.com/community/article/us_holocaust_museum_pushes_west_coast_visibility_20110426

During a lecture on genocide prevention at American Jewish University (AJU) on April 13, Michael Abramowitz, director of the Committee on Conscience at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, discussed a shift in the international community’s view of how to handle crimes against humanity. 

We’re seeing a “shift from a culture responding after the fact to a culture of prevention,” Abramowitz said.

The discussion, titled “From Memory to Action,” along with other recent events, including a presentation in Long Beach last February focused on Nazi collaborators, is part of the Washington D.C.-based museum’s “strategy to expand our presence” on the West Coast, according to Michael Sarid, Western regional director of the museum.

The museum has programs he believes have “flown under the radar,” Sarid said, including an annual teachers’ forum on Holocaust education that takes place in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as the museum’s efforts to partner with local universities, including Loyola Marymount, UCLA and California State University, Long Beach, to present lectures and traveling exhibitions. 

At AJU Abramowitz discussed his recent trip to Sudan, which he said was true to the mission of the Committee on Conscience, the museum’s genocide awareness program — part of his effort to “bear witness” by going to “a place where genocide has happened or there exists the threat of genocide.”

In February, Sudan offered its citizens the opportunity to vote on a referendum to split the country into northern and southern regions. Despite violence leading up to the vote, most people living in southern Sudan endorsed independence from the north.

Abramowitz, a former Washington Post White House correspondent, explained that he and others on the Committee on Conscience had been concerned that genocide, similar to those in Darfur or Rwanda, could have occurred in Sudan.

But at AJU, Abramowitz described the new state of Southern Sudan as secure. It’s a poor but relatively peaceful place, he said.

Jewish World Watch, a nonprofit dedicated to genocide prevention efforts, co-sponsored the event at AJU, along with the school’s Sigi Ziering Institute.

Despite the vast array of local Holocaust programs and institutions worldwide, among them Los Angeles’ Museum of Tolerance and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, as well as USC’s Shoah Foundation Institute, there is still the need for programs put on by the D.C.-based museum here in Los Angeles, Sarid said.

The museum’s director, Sara Bloomfield, “has said many times through the years that no one organization can carry the massive burden of Holocaust remembrance education alone,” Sarid said. “It really takes a village, a broad effort.”
— Ryan Torok, Staff Writer

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