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County Supervisors to Vote Jan. 24 on Funding Holocaust Exhibit

01/18/23

 

By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will vote on Tuesday morning, Jan. 24, whether to offer a free, one-year lease on county-owned property for the Holocaust remembrance exhibit that previously had been on display at the main Chula Vista Civic Center Library.  The proposal would also extend a one-time grant of $25,000 to the Jewish Federation of San Diego County to underwrite the exhibit.

Called “RUTH: Remember Us The Holocaust,” the exhibit was curated by Sandy Scheller, daughter of two late Holocaust survivors who had settled in Chula Vista: Kurt Sax and Ruth Goldshmiedova Sax.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher commented: “Hate crimes against the Jewish community in San Diego have been on the rise in the past two years.  This troubling local and national trend has been linked to an alarming lack of public knowledge about the history of racism and bigotry against the Jewish people and the Holocaust.  At the same time, there has been a well-documented rise in online hate and the proliferation of Holocaust denial conspiracy theories, coinciding with rising hate crimes.”

He also noted that in 2021, “the Jewish community in San Diego experienced 38 recorded incidents of antisemitism, including 14 cases of vandalism, 23 incidents of harassment and one assault.  These antisemtic incidents represented an all-time high but Black and anti-Asian hate crimes also reached new highs in San Diego in 2021.”

“The exhibit … aims to combat bigotry and hate by investing in greater education and understanding of the history of hate and racism towards the Jewish community and other victims of the Holocaust,” Fletcher continued.  “The United States Institute of Peace emphasizes the role that memorialization plays in reconstructing social fabric and relations following conflict.  It is important that the initiative is led by those with personal connections to the Holocaust, as well as with the San Diego community, to encourage authentic representation and meaningful engagement.”

He added that “a Holocaust Remembrance Exhibit will serve to promote a greater public appreciation of the Jewish American experience and serve as a reminder of the dangers of hate and bigotry in our community.”  Further, he predicted, the exhibit will encourage “empathy, inclusiveness and understanding.”

The RUTH: Remember Us The Holocaust exhibit was displayed at the Chula Vista Civic Center Library from the beginning of 2020 through August of 2022, but for much of that time the COVID-19 pandemic kept it closed.  It featured printed narratives, photos, and personal testimonies of Holocaust survivors who had relocated to San Diego County after World War II – a dwindling number of people given that the Holocaust ended 78 years ago in 1945.

“The County of San Diego must play an active role in reminding people, especially the young people who will soon be our country’s future leaders, of the consequences of bigotry, racism and hate,” Fletcher said.

The county supervisor noted that both UC San Diego and at San Diego State University experienced antisemitic vandalism in 2022, “raising safety concerns within the Jewish community.  Reports of similar antisemitic vandalism were also reported at local middle schools and high schools over the past year.  These incidents follow the antisemitic 2019 Poway synagogue shooting, which left one dead and four others wounded.”

If his motion is approved by the five-member Board of Supervisors, county staff would be directed to help the Jewish Federation find a suitable space for the exhibit within two months.  The exhibit would open on Monday, April 17, coinciding with Yom Hashoah, the day on which Israel and Jewish communities around the world commemorate the Holocaust.

The money would come from the county’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Program.  Fletcher has asked his fellow supervisors to make a finding that such a grant would not require an environmental impact report.

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