Hollywood Actor Liev Schreiber makes a surprise appearance
February 15, 2022 [St. Petersburg, FL] — The Florida Holocaust Museum (The FHM) held its annual To Life benefit virtually on February 3rd marking the 30 year anniversary of the Museum. This milestone was marked by sharing memories, the Museum’s important work, and plans for the future. The FHM’s success will prove helpful as it meets the current and future challenges of the current rise in antisemitism, changing technology, and the aging and loss of Holocaust survivors. Reaching both existing and new supporters, “To Life” raised more than $700,000, making this year’s event the Museum’s highest-grossing benefit to date. In an abundance of caution, the event was held virtually due to the recent rise in COVID-19.
The FHM honored photographer Jason Schwartz with the Loebenberg Humanitarian Award for his work on Fragments: Portraits of Survivors. In 2003, the Loebenberg Humanitarian Award was established and named for Edie* and Walter* Loebenberg, whose dream to establish The FHM became a reality through their vision and philanthropy, as well as the support and generosity of community leaders. Each year, the Award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to The FHM and their vision, foresight, and dedication have furthered the Museum’s mission to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides.
Jason Schwartz was commissioned by the Museum in 2001 to photograph local Holocaust survivors to create its “Fragments: Portraits of Survivors” exhibition. The collection is unique as the photographer worked with each survivor to add their personal, handwritten statement about their survival to each.
The FHM showcased three short films conveying three very important messages, “remember those we lost, celebrate those who survived, honor all for eternity.” The first video introduced by Holocaust survivor Toni Rinde conveyed the message of remembrance and featured the arrival and installation of the boxcar.
The second video was introduced by Sandra Mermelstein, a member of The FHM’s Advisory Committee and daughter of The FHM’s founders. It featured local educators, survivors, and a student who shared the impact of the Museum’s mission and the importance of Holocaust survivors’ testimonies. As part of that film, Mia Newsom, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School Student, shared that stories like theirs “touch you emotionally, from human to human, they went through this, this was their life, they lived it…this is something that impacts your life, whether you realize it or not because it changed the way everything worked, it split up countries, it killed millions of people, it touched religions, and is an important aspect that everyone needs to be educated about.”
The third video themed “Honor all for Eternity” was introduced by Andrea Silverman, granddaughter of Holocaust survivors Helen and Max Biderman. It focused on how The FHM plans on furthering its reach to fulfill its mission for the next 30 years and beyond. “St. Petersburg is a very diverse community, and this community (The FHM) is just one part of our community that will allow people to be educated so they can learn from our history, they can go out and teach their family members, so if someone is just sitting around telling them something, they can give facts instead of their opinions,” said Chief Anthony Holloway, St. Petersburg Police Department
Later in the program, The FHM’s Legacy Award was presented by actor and star of the 2008 film Defiance Liev Schreiber to Ruth Bielski Ehrreich and Brendon Rennert, daughter and grandson of Tuvia and Lillian Bielski of the Bielski partisans. The 2008 film Defiance tells the true and astonishing story of the Bielski partisans, who fought the Nazis and rescued hundreds of Jews through the darkest years of war and genocide. Liev played the role of Zus.
The FHM’s Legacy Award is given each year to honor a person whose commitment to sharing the story of a Holocaust survivor empowers future generations to use the lessons of the past to create a better future. Because family and friends of survivors will soon be the ones responsible for ensuring these stories are told, their efforts are becoming more and more essential.
While The FHM celebrates its success they are mindful of the challenges still ahead. The Museum is ready to meet the challenges of the continuing rise of antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and distortion by preserving the memories of beloved survivors through their educational resources, large collections of artifacts, and innovative uses of technology.
“All of us at The Florida Holocaust Museum are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support we received for this year’s To Life event and our community’s ongoing support of our Mission. It is up to all of us to remember the survivors and victims of the Holocaust and to ensure that its lessons are taught to inspire generations of upstanders,” Erin Blankenship, Interim Executive Director, The Florida Holocaust Museum.
Looking forward to the next 30 years, The FHM will remain vigilant in its mission and teach members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides. Funds raised from To Life will go to support this work.
The FHM is grateful for our To Life Co-Chairs, Anita Treiser Bernstein and Robin Warren and their amazing committee for all of their lasting contributions: Toni Rinde, Honorary Co-Chair and Sponsorship Co-Chair, Sandy Mermelstein, Honorary Co-Chair, Andrea Silverman, Honorary Co-Chair and Sponsorship Co-Chair, David Alvarez, Finance Chair, Ruth Ross, Production Co-Chair, Michelle Rook, Stewardship Co-Chair, Marilyn Smith, Marketing Co-Chair, Rachael Worthington, Stewardship Co-Chair, Jason Alpert, Erin Blankenship, Sharon Boyes, Calah Duryea, Nancy Greenberg, Bret Henrikson, Helen Levine, David Meiers, and Melissa Meshil. The FHM is thankful for our 30th Anniversary Sponsor, Xiohong Sunny Zhong and Robert M. Cohen, Platinum Sponsor, John Picciano, Visionary Sponsor: Sandy Mermelstein and Kent “Scooter” Bontly. Champion Sponsors: The Louis S. Orloff Family, The Schick, William Greenberg, and Madow Families, and Rachael and Donald Worthington. For a full list of supporters click here.
|The Florida Holocaust Museum 55 Fifth Street South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 Phone: (727) 820-0100www.TheFHM.org|
|About The Florida Holocaust Museum One of the largest Holocaust Museums in the country, and one of three nationally accredited Holocaust museums, The Florida Holocaust Museum honors the memory of millions of men, women, and children who suffered or died in the Holocaust. The FHM is dedicated to teaching members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides. For additional information, please visit www.TheFHM.org|
|Liev Schreiber star of the 2008 film, Defiance|
|Host and Auctioneer Jason Alpert withThe FHM Interim Executive Director, Erin Blankenship|
|Ruth Bielski Ehrreich and Brendon Rennert|