SYDNEY Jewish Museum (SJM) survivor guide Yvonne Engelman said, “It’s exceptionally rewarding to witness this great gift” of $6.25 million from the state government to the museum.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced the funding on Sunday, of which $3.5 million will go towards a new three-storey education building for students with curriculum-linked studies, and $2.75 million for temporary exhibition spaces and archives.
“[It is] an indescribable feeling to see that the museum is here and it will be here when even the survivors are not, and it will continue to educate the young people and the general public about what it really was to be in Auschwitz,” Engelman said.
“It is hard to express what it really means to me and I’m sure to each and every survivor, that we are leaving a legacy and it will continue when we are not here.”
She said the “only way” to perpetuate the memory of the six million who perished, including 1.5 million children, “is by telling the story and remembering what actually happened. It should never, ever happen again, regardless of colour or religion.”
Perrottet said the funding will help the museum ensure schools across the state are educated on the history of the Holocaust. “As we come closer to a time when Holocaust survivors will no longer be able to share their stories, this expansion of the Sydney Jewish Museum will provide a vital link to ensure the Holocaust is always remembered by future generations.”
SJM CEO Norman Seligman said the grant showed the government’s confidence in what the museum is achieving and what it stands for.
“As I come towards the end of my tenure as CEO – which will be towards the end of this year – it’s very pleasing to know we have achieved this grant which will go that much further to ensuring the future of the museum is that much more secure,” he said.
With more archive space, he said the museum will be able to take in more artefacts from the community, while the new education spaces would allow for more of the museum’s collection to be displayed.
It will also benefit the Dimensions in Testimony project – in which holograms of six survivors will provide a virtual interactive experience to educate future generations – and provide a dedicated space for virtual outreach programs, he said.
SJM president Gus Lehrer added, “The SJM is very grateful to the NSW government for this grant, which is effectively an endorsement of the museum’s program of teaching personal responsibility. This was the dream of the Holocaust survivors who founded the museum and this grant is a significant step in the realisation of that dream.”
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark also welcomed what he called a vital investment.
“The SJM promotes respect, understanding and tolerance in the broader community through focusing on the unique lessons of the Shoah,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a show of bipartisanship, Opposition frontbencher Walt Secord texted Perrottet to welcome the grant.
“I still remember in the late 1980s when I was a journalist at The AJN and the Sydney Jewish Museum was just a dream, but today, it is a world-class institution,” he said.
“This is deep and solid investment in the fight against intolerance and prejudice in our community.”