Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center: 20 Years of Building Mutual Respect
The Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida - 975 Imperial Golf Course Blvd, Naples, is celebrating its 20th anniversary during the 2021-22 season. Slightly delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will have a variety of special programs and exhibits—most notably, the winter fundraising event, The Luncheon, on Dec. 2, 2021, at Arthrex One. The event will feature a program honoring the late Holocaust survivor, Abe Price, one of the museum’s founders and the person to whom the “Out of the Ashes” students dedicated their project.
The museum’s founders were inspired by a Golden Gate Middle School classroom project on the Holocaust called “Out of the Ashes” way back in 1998. Under the direction of teachers David Bell and Michelle Lee, seventh graders in the class researched the subject and interviewed local Holocaust survivors, concentration camp liberators, World War II veterans, among others. The students were deeply moved by what they learned from these eyewitnesses to history. The students’ motto for their project was, “Tell your children to tell their children and their children another generation. We will never forget!”
Having been transformed from the classroom exhibit into a full-fledged museum in 2001 and achieving nonprofit status, the organization was aided by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Collier County (now the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples) and featured many of the students’ projects. Its collection gradually expanded with donations from community members. There are now more than 1,000 artifacts, documents, and original photographs in the museum’s permanent collection.
The museum was outgrowing its longtime rental quarters with no more room to expand almost two decades later. In 2018, a capital campaign was undertaken to purchase a new home for the museum. Many generous donors made the campaign a success and the present location was purchased.
Local philanthropist Janet G. Cohen provided the lead gift for the campaign and the new museum building was named in her honor (as well as her late husband, Harvey D. Cohen). In November 2019, the new location held a grand opening ceremony, attended by more than 1,000 people.
The new museum features an AIA award-winning design by architect David Corban. Capitol Museum Services created the expanded exhibits, displays, and professional lighting. PBS Contractors also won an award for its work in the "Best Office/Commercial Project $1,000,000 - $3,000,000" category.
The museum has worked with the Gulfshore Playhouse (GP) Education Department to create a special short play about Abe’s life, which will be premiered at The Luncheon for the anniversary event. “Remember – The Story of Abe Price” by Jeffrey Binder will be used to introduce SWFL middle school students to Holocaust history. This is the second short student play worked on in conjunction with GP. The first was “In-Flight – The Childhood Story of Sabine van Dam” by Hester Kamen. Sabine was also a Holocaust Survivor and Museum Educator who shared her story with thousands of students in SWFL.
These short plays are designed and timed for presentation during a regular class period. Museum educators visit the school to provide students with age-appropriate context before the performance. The play is staged with GP’s professional actors who engage in a question and answer session with the students following the performance.
For more information about the museum and its upcoming events, visit hmcec.org.
Information and photos provided by The Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center.