“If we do not talk about it, if we do not remember, then the world will never know. And that has made me speak about it.”
—Henry Meyer, Holocaust Survivor
We want a memorial which will tell our tradition, how we died, and why and how to prevent future massacres, something that will arouse both gentiles and Jews alike, something with an expression, something that will make sure our dear ones have not died in vain.
– The Jewish New American Society, meeting minutes 1965
The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education was formed by a passionate group of Holocaust survivors and their families, and opened its doors in 2000. The organization’s opening was the realization of a dream nurtured over 35 years by several predecessor organizations.
In the years following the Holocaust hundreds of survivors, primarily from Eastern Europe, began new lives in Cincinnati. They formed the Jewish New American Society, which served to help the survivors integrate into the local Jewish community and foster community with those who had been through similar experiences. Later, this organization was reorganized under the name Jewish Survivors of Nazism. The group’s primary purpose was to provide social opportunities and Jewish connection through events, holiday parties, picnics, an annual Liberation Ball, and a special spring Yizkor Service commemorating the Holocaust. In addition to these enjoyable events, from its earliest organizational meetings, the group debated the appropriate way to preserve the memories of those they had lost.
In 1994, the aging of the leaders of the Jewish Survivors from Nazism led them to approach the children of local survivors to take over and re-envision the organization. Thus was born a new group called The Combined Generations of the Holocaust, which included children of survivors and others interested in a wider mission of developing and delivering educational, outreach and social programs promoting Holocaust history, understanding and preservation.
After much consideration, a committee of Combined Generations of the Holocaust leaders approached Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion about locating a Holocaust Education Center at the college which would build upon and expand the mission of the organization.
In 2000, The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education (CHHE) opened on the Cincinnati Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The space included offices and a Resource Library for teachers. The Center expanded the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration to include a series of Holocaust Awareness programs across the tri-state including presentations by educators and authors, concerts, films and exhibits.
During 2001 and 2002, CHHE developed and funded a permanent exhibit geared toward young people called Mapping Our Tears, which opened to the public in 2003. The exhibit combines audio and video testimonies with artifacts and memorabilia of more than 60 local eyewitnesses. Since its creation, over 20,000 students and community members have toured the exhibit.
After years of nurturing from HUC-JIR, CHHE was now capable of standing on its own and re-launched as an independent organization. In 2007 CHHE successfully made the transition to an independent not-for-profit organization.
In October 2009, with full community support, CHHE moved to Rockwern Academy in Kenwood. The new location has proven mutually beneficial for both CHHE and Rockwern. It offers convenient access to city and suburban schools, expanded museum, resource and classroom space, and collaborative opportunities for teachers and students.