Board pays tribute to a decade of remarkable achievements

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Owen Futeran presents the ‘Mazal Tov’ scroll to Holocaust Centre Founder Myra Osrin, patron Pumla Gobodo-Madikezela and chairman of the Board of Trustees Mervyn Smith.

On Wednesday 22 July the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (Cape Council) hosted a function for the Cape Town Jewish community to mark and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre.

In his address Owen Futeran, chairman of the SAJBOD (Cape Council), paid warm tribute.

“This Centre provides us, and all members of the broader society of which we are a part, the opportunity to carry out the sacred duty to remember — to remember for the sake of the future,” he said. “For the Cape Town Holocaust Centre is indeed a place of memory and of remembrance (of zikaron) that guides and teaches, and where people learn about the evils that must be uprooted in the creation of a better future.

“May the Cape Town Holocaust Centre fulfill this sacred task it has taken upon itself and carry on these efforts with ever greater success in the future.” Max du Preez, editor-in chief of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre’s A Place of Memory, A Place of Learning, said, “The Centre has had a significant impact on the thinking and attitudes of many South Africans over the last decade.”

He mentioned that he had come across several teachers and young black South Africans who had visited the Centre and were confronted with the history of the Holocaust for the first time. They told him of their shock at the immensity of the human cruelty and suffering, and also admitted to him that it struck them for the first time that there were people other than those with black skins who were victims of racism. For many, he noted, this was a first proper realisation that race or skin colour has nothing to do with evil, heroism, prejudice or resistance.

Du Preez thanked the Holocaust Centre for the contribution it has made in spreading the important message that each of us has an obligation to make sure that the deaths of millions of people during the Holocaust continue to have an impact on the attitudes of people today and for generations to come.

The Centre’s patron, Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, quoting Shoshana Felman, posed the question as to whether there is a relationship between traumatic crisis and education, and whether testimony can educate beyond the classroom environment in the broader social context.

She went on to explain that the work done at the Holocaust Centre reminds us of the fundamental connection between past and present — and that in the retelling and teaching about the story of the Holocaust, its significance in the present can be brought to life. Education about the Holocaust points us in this direction of remembering the past, actively facing it and engaging with it in order to critically reflect on the important question of what it means to respect human life and what it means to live together.

The over 200 people who attended this function were visibly moved by all the speakers and left feeling incredibly proud to have an institution like the Cape Town Holocaust Centre in our midst.

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