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As Holocaust Awareness Suffers And Anti-Semitism Intensifies, FAU Gets A Boost For Jewish Studies

Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach Miami Herald.jpeg
Emily Michot/Miami Herald
An observance was held at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach on April 8, 2018. Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton recently received two major donations to support its Holocaust education programs.

A $20 million gift will be used to construct a new space for Florida Atlantic University's academic programs focusing on the Holocaust and Jewish studies.

Florida Atlantic University received two multi-million dollar gifts this fall to invest in education about the Holocaust.

South Florida — and particularly Boca Raton, where the university is located — is home to one of the largest concentrations of Holocaust survivors in the country. Kurt Wallach, 94, is one of them. He escaped Nazi Germany with his family when he was a child and now lives in Vero Beach.

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Wallach and his wife, Marilyn, recently gave FAU the biggest single gift in its history: $20 million. The money will go toward constructing a new building, or expanding an existing building, to house an institute for Holocaust and Jewish studies.

“Kurt's family lost almost 300 members in the Holocaust. So this is really the motivation for his gift: to never let anyone forget about the Holocaust and the atrocities of the Nazis,” said Michael Horswell, dean of the university’s college of arts and letters.

The other donation was from Arthur Gutterman and his family. The “multi-million dollar gift” — the Gutterman family wanted the exact amount kept private — will support FAU’s programs for training educators how to teach about the Holocaust.

“Especially as the survivors pass, it's going to be up to educators to carry their stories on into the future,” Horswell said. “And because of the rise in anti-Semitism that we've seen, unfortunately, in the last couple of years around the world, it is important these lessons get taught.”

The gifts come on the heels of a national survey that found an alarming lack of knowledge about the Holocaust among younger generations.

It also follows a nationally-watched labor battle culminating in the firing of a Palm Beach County principal who refused to acknowledge that the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event” in a 2018 email to a parent.