It’s rare when a Jewish communal project with a broad vision to increase educational offerings and expand public awareness in the region develops an enviable track record before the project even has a home base, a staff or a large budget. Apparently, the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center is far from your “average” Jewish communal venture.
On Tisha B’Av earlier this summer, the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center cosponsored with CareOne at Teaneck an online screening—by advance reservation only—of the docudrama film by Nancy Spielberg (Steven’s sister) and Roberta Grossman, “Who Will Write Our History?” followed by a live Zoom encounter with the producers.
In January the group held a talk by Jason Greenblatt, a former assistant to the president and White House special envoy to the Middle East. Greenblatt gave a talk called “Insights Into Middle East Diplomacy and Rising Anti-Semitism Through the Eyes of a Son of Survivors.” [A recording of this talk can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NEpzTqv1tA]
In May the group held a Yom HaShoah gathering via Zoom featuring Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, senior scholar at the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future and University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought, and Professor Dennis Klein, director of the master of arts in Holocaust and genocide studies, and director of the Jewish studies program at Kean University.
Previously the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center sponsored talks by inspirational speaker Rabbi Hanoch Teller, Jewish cinema scholar Dr. Eric Goldman, Holocaust musicologist Tamara Freeman and others.
The Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center has sponsored these events in part to raise awareness of and encourage contributions to their signature project—a campaign to build a public Holocaust memorial on the Municipal Green in Teaneck and create an education and events space in the Teaneck Public Library. The Memorial and Educational Center is intended to serve as a platform for educational programs for public and private schools in the area, as well as Holocaust activities in the region.
The Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center campaign started over seven years ago, when the group’s co-chair Steven Fox (the son of a Warsaw Ghetto survivor) served as co-chair of the Teaneck Yom HaShoah Commemoration Committee. Noting that the number of Holocaust survivors in the community was dwindling, he grew determined to create a local memorial, to increase programming in Northern Bergen County and create a local site for remembrance, introspection and education.
Fox approached Bruce Prince, president of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Teaneck, and enlisted him as co-chair of the new initiative. They enlisted other members of the community for support in building the new venture.
Norbert Strauss, a Holocaust survivor and Teaneck resident who is a major supporter of the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center, spoke to The Jewish Link about why he decided to support this initiative: “For some 20 years I have been speaking to schools (Jewish and non-Jewish), shuls and at hotels, and writing for over three years in The Jewish Link, telling my Holocaust story. If we do not keep the story alive in this generation it will disappear over the next two or three generations. The Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Education Center will establish a physical presence and reminder for generations to come. When my generation is gone who will tell the Holocaust story? The Memorial and Education Center will.”
Rabbi Steven Weil of Teaneck, now the new CEO and national director of the Friends of the IDF, shared why he supports the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center: “We are blessed to have very good community relations in our area. Our hope is that the educational work of the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center will expand on those ties and broaden the impact on the towns in our area and the local Jewish communities.”
Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter stated: “I am a strong supporter of the efforts of the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Education Center. In our current climate in America it is particularly important to remember the Holocaust, to be reminded of the dangers of anti-Semitism and the importance of freedom and liberty for all.”
Through the support of New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg, the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center received seed money from the state for the campaign to build the memorial and create space at the library. They’ve also received the encouragement of the mayor and city council of Teaneck for the project.
The Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center works in conjunction with another local group seeking to establish a memorial for enslaved Africans, also on the Municipal Green. The two groups have termed their planned adjoining spaces the Garden to Nurture Human Understanding, and they have already worked together to cosponsor a screening of a film about Rabbi Joachim Prinz, a Holocaust survivor and Civil Rights activist who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Both groups have pledged to continue working together and to develop a comprehensive education program.
The Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center seeks to raise $3 million to create the memorial on the Municipal Green and establish space at the library. They have already enlisted Alan M. Hantman, a respected architect who worked on behalf of the Clinton administration in Washington, DC, to help design the memorial.
The Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center invites additional community support. For more information on the initiative and dedication opportunities, please see: https://nnjholocaustmemorial.org.