Local survivors sent the message “We are still here” through “The Exhibit: A Journey to Life,” on display at the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County in Freehold through Jan. 31.
Created by the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Center at Brookdale Community College, the award-winning exhibit premiered last March at the Monmouth Museum on BCC’s Lincroft campus.
“A Journey to Life” teaches the lessons of the Holocaust through the experiences of area residents who survived the Nazi persecution. Some 140 survivors are featured in multimedia presentations and 29 in wall panels featuring their message to children of the future.
Eleven survivors contributed suitcases containing personal artifacts. Text, photographs, documents, and a historic timeline also serve to tell the tragic story.
A reception on Nov. 7 commemorated both the opening of the exhibit and the 30th anniversary of the Brookdale center.
John Woolf of Tinton Falls, who was instrumental in planning the event and in setting up the exhibit at the museum, shared his story at the reception.
Born in Bustino, Czechoslovakia, Woolf survived Auschwitz and came to this country with his parents in 1946 at the age of 18. He contributed a suitcase that includes letters, a concentration camp uniform, and a report card.
“People tend to forget what happened in the Holocaust, and I want to send a message that we are still here,” Woolf said.
Woolf also said he wanted to send another message. “Try not to hate,” he said. “Simply put, hate and prejudice are poisons to one’s life and can blind us to the possibilities in front of us. We must learn to judge people on an individual basis and not because they belong to a particular nation, race or religion.”
The next day, the exhibit space was the site of a Kristallnacht commemoration sponsored by the center and the museum with the support of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, represented by community chaplain Rabbi Symcha Zylberberg.
Exhibit chair Rabbi Brooks Sussman of Congregation Kol Am in Freehold said that the museum’s home — the early-19th-century Levi Solomon Barn — reminded visitors of the buildings that often served as hiding places for Jews. “I think this is a remarkable exhibition, and the space here highly enhances it,” he said.
Heritage Museum president Michael Steinhorn said future exhibits will be devoted to World War II , the painter Marc Chagall, and the country’s first female rabbi, Sally Priesand. “We really have a lot of Jewish pride here,” Steinhorn said.
By working with the Brookdale center, museum executive director Michael Berman said, “we will share what we have to offer with the community. I look forward to a strong collaboration, and a wonderful collaboration.”