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Toronto’s first Holocaust museum looks to the post-survivor era



(JTA) — Toronto is home to one of the world’s largest Jewish communities, nearly half of the 335,000 Jews in Canada. But until last week, the city did not have a dedicated Holocaust museum.

The Toronto Holocaust Museum opened its doors on Friday, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by an array of dignitaries and Holocaust survivors. Aimed at young learners who will inherit a post-survivor world, the space centers around 11 kiosks where large-as-life survivors share their testimonies through interactive videos. Its four galleries explore Jewish and minority persecution in both Europe and Canada, World War II atrocities and the beginnings of new life in Canada for thousands of refugees.

“What we set out to do from the very beginning was to ensure that this was a place to hear from survivors long after they’re gone,” the museum’s Executive Director Dara Solomon told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Bringing the Holocaust survivors in to see how we’ve done that, and having them really happy and fulfilled, has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my personal and professional life.”

While the center tells human stories from a genocide, it de-emphasizes the panoply of horror that some have come to expect from a Holocaust museum. In its gallery dedicated to the atrocities, some materials — such as images of mass killings in pits on the outskirts of towns — are stored in drawers that must be pulled out by willing viewers.

“We made some very conscious decisions to not use the incredibly graphic imagery I grew up with, because we know that students don’t learn as well as people have thought they did when they’re sad,” said Solomon. “If you’re making them sad and scaring them, the learning actually shuts down.”

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has advised Holocaust educators to use graphic material “judiciously” and “only to the extent necessary” to achieve learning objectives. Graphic images and texts can exploit students’ emotional vulnerability instead of encouraging them to think critically in a safe environment, according to USHMM guidelines.

Created by the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation of Greater Toronto, the 9,500-square-foot museum opened on the federation’s Sherman Campus, a Jewish community center that also hosts a theater, a daycare and other communal buildings. Solomon hopes this location will help facilitate connections between the historical exhibits and daily Jewish life in Toronto.

The Toronto Holocaust Museum replaces the city’s Holocaust Education and Memorial Centre, founded in 1985 by local survivors who wanted to share their stories with students. The previous space had only a small number of exhibits and was half the size of the new museum.

Along with recorded testimonies, visitors at the new museum can now see artifacts that have never been shared with the public. Those items range from a striped prisoner uniform, standard in the Nazi concentration camps, to a gift sent from a mother in the Ravensbrück camp to her children in 1942.

Marketa Brady made three heart-shaped charms at the camp from a chewed-up bread ration painted with toothpaste for her son George and daughter Hana, who were still not captured in Czechoslovakia. Marketa, her husband Karel and 13-year-old Hana Brady were eventually killed at Auschwitz, but George survived and kept the charms. His sister’s life inspired the 2002 nonfiction book “Hana’s Suitcase,” by Karen Levine, which is widely studied by children in Canada. The charms are available on view at the new museum.

Also housed in the museum is a Torah that survived Kristallnacht, the night when the Nazis destroyed Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues throughout Germany and Austria in November 1938. A Catholic priest rescued the Torah from a burning synagogue in the town of Brand. At the end of the war, he handed it to young U.S. army chaplain Gunther Plaut, who brought it home in a bazooka case.

Plaut eventually became a rabbi in Toronto and entrusted the scroll to the future Toronto Holocaust Museum before he died in 2012. The creation of this space has been delayed several times, said Solomon, and many Canadian survivors have hoped for decades to see it become a reality.

“We haven’t really had a museum in the city to collect these artifacts, so a lot of families have been holding onto them — just waiting for this museum to be built,” said Solomon.

The post Toronto’s first Holocaust museum looks to the post-survivor era appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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