Three honorees will be rewarded for advancing social justice with hard work and loyal, long-term service on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the 21st testimonial dinner of the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education.
Located on the campus of Brookdale Community College in Brookdale, Chhange is dedicated to Shoa education and the cause of human rights worldwide.
Set to be honored at the event are Adrienne McOmber, a Red Bank-based attorney; Nelly Segal of Tinton Falls, former editorial manager of academic publications at Rutgers University; and Hackensack Meridian Health, which operates eight hospitals in central New Jersey as well as other facilities throughout the state.
McOmber, this year’s dinner honoree, started volunteering with Chhange in the early 1980s when it expanded its mission to include an Armenian Genocide Remembrance Program. “Chhange is committed to keeping the Armenian genocide [1915-23] from being forgotten or denied,” said McOmber, expressing gratitude for the organization’s annual programming, as well as for producing an exhibit on the Armenian genocide, a book incorporating 54 histories of survivors, and a related art exhibit.
He added, “We are grateful that the Armenian genocide will be included in the permanent exhibit that is being planned by Chhange.”
Segal, who was born and raised in Israel and who earned her doctorate in Hebrew literature from New York University, has been working with Chhange since 2003, when she retired from Rutgers. She will receive the Distinguished Service Award.
A Chhange board member for 12 years, she coordinated the statewide journey of the organization’s traveling exhibit, “Survival of the Human Spirit: Triumph over Adversity.”
She also edited numerous publications, including Flowers from the Ashes: an anthology of student’s writings on the Holocaust; A Tribute to the Survivors of the Holocaust in our Community; and Hundred-Year Legacy of Courage: Celebrating the Lives of Armenian Genocide Survivors in Our Community.
“I feel connected to all that Chhange’s mission stands for,” Segal told NJJN via e-mail. She praised the center’s “total commitment to creatively educate us all about the historical issues of the Holocaust and genocide as well as for its appealing and effective programs that motivate us to work together toward elimination of anti-Semitism, racism, and all forms of prejudice.”
Segal said she is “especially drawn to the personal stories of the survivors, all survivors, for whom it must have taken remarkable courage and responsibility to share with us. Their stories — filled with incomprehensible horror, losses, atrocities, and resilience — engage our emotions in a very powerful way. They awaken our moral and social awareness, inspiring us to repair the world, to make it a better place in any way we can, big or small.
“This response is breathtakingly present in the art and writings of the thousands of students who attend our programs and learn from teachers who have been trained and guided by Chhange.”
Wayne Boatwright will accept Chhange’s Corporate Leadership Award on behalf of Hackensack Meridian Health; he serves as the health network’s vice president of diversity and inclusions.
Boatwright lauded Chhange for playing an important role in keeping young people aware of atrocities from the past and for recognizing that some of these battles continue to be fought today. He singled out John Lloyd, president/CEO of the board of trustees, and the senior team at Meridian Health for developing, more than 10 years ago, health-care strategies in a “culturally competent” way that provided sensitive care for diverse communities.
“At Meridian Health, we define diversity as more than race and gender,” he said, citing the hospitals’ interaction with, among others, observant Jews, individuals spanning generations, and members of the LGBTQ communities.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Boatwright said he became interested in social justice because of his father, George Boatwright, a leader in the African-American community of Florence, SC. Boatwright recalled that when the state was trying to determine whether to make the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a legal holiday, his father announced to the whole family that anyone “under his roof” who had a job or was a student would not go to work or school on that day.
“We would celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, regardless of what the state decided,” said Boatwright. “I grew up with the belief that you should not have to ask for permission to recognize your basic rights.”