Virginia Holocaust Museum

By Margaret Williams

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The Virginia Holocaust Museum is located on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom and is one of the most noted Holocaust Centers in the United States. The museum is independent and not affiliated with any religious organization. The Museum was established in 1997 by Jay Ipson, a child survivor of the Holocaust, among others, to conserve the collective memory of World War II atrocities through public education. The museum’s motto is“Tolerance Through Education.” The museum originally occupied five rooms in a former school building of Temple Beth El. However, the museum quickly outgrew its surroundings and with the assistance of the Virginia State Legislature acquired a tobacco warehouse in historic Shockoe Bottom. The museum was dedicated during Yom Ha’Shoah v’Ha’Gvruah (Days of Remembrance and Heroism) in April, 2003.

Each of the levels of the museum serves a different purpose. The main level houses the information desk, a gift shop, several activities centers that may be rented for educational and or corporate activities, a replica of the famous choral synagogue in Lithuania, a Survivors Room dedicated to the few who survived the Holocaust, and twenty-seven exhibits dedicated to events that transpired during the Holocaust. The second level, which is under construction, will function as classroom quarters, with a research center and an extensive library.

While the museum’s synagogue does not sponsor religious events, the center can be rented for Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, and other activities. Free public events, such as the presentation of Darfur Diaries, are a common occurrence at the museum. The museum exhibits are geared toward World War II events. However, they are intended to promote community edification on global events wherever basic humanity is challenged and ethical principles are at issue. The volunteer staff includes several Holocaust survivors who offer guided tours of the museum and who are available to answer questions concerning events that occurred during the Holocaust. Both guided or self-lead tours are offered during the Museums hours of operation to groups of all sizes. Teachers are provided with a teaching manual to prepare their students to take full advantage of presentations during their visit to the museum. The museum maintains an extensive collection of videotapes of interviews with survivors, liberators, witnesses, and others having direct, personal experience of the Holocaust. Since a main focus of the museum is to educate young people, there are volunteer and internship opportunities available for students and those interested in community service outreach activities.

Holocaust Museum
2000 East Cary Street
Richmond, VA 23223
(804)-257-5400

Sources:
www.va-holocaust.com

Profile prepared by Margaret Williams
February, 2007

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