Jacksonville sixth Florida city to establish Holocaust museum

Jacksonville sixth Florida city to establish Holocaust museum
The official ribbon-cutting was done by Laurie DuBow, Lori Leach, Colleen Rodriquez, Ben Frisch, Ina Taffet, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch, Kalilah Jamall, staff assistant, Office of U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Essence McKinney, a child in JFCS’s foster care services, JFCS volunteer Eunice Zisser, and Matthew Villeareal, a student in JFCS’s Achievers for Life program.

In spite of blustery winds, more than 150 gathered under a large tent Oct. 29 to celebrate the grand opening of the 30,000-square-foot Alan J. Taffet Building and the centennial of Jewish Family & Community Services.

The ceremony included a ribbon cutting and tours of the new building, which houses the Frisch Family Holocaust Memorial Gallery, the only Holocaust memorial between Atlanta and Miami. After speeches, a diverse group of community members, from a foster care child to a Holocaust survivor, added mementos to a time capsule to represent the nonprofit’s main areas of service.

Speaking during the dedication, Alan Taffet’s widow, Ina, shared how proud she is with every caring deed in his life. “He is not dead but he is alive in this building,” she said.

Ben Frisch followed her words by noting the importance of including the Frisch Family Holocaust Memorial Gallery in the new headquarters.

“The [Holocaust] should never have happened and never be forgotten,” he said. “We will continue to give our support for many years to come as our family’s remembrance of Lilo and Harry Frisch, both of whom were Holocaust survivors.”

Irina Spinella, with her father, Holocaust survivor Nathan Koifman and her son, Ken. Koifman was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1931. His family moved to Moscow,  Russia. Then the war broke out and, in 1941, Koifman and his mother became one of the many families who evacuated to Uzbekistan by train. In 1943, they moved back to Moscow where his family worked in the military factories until the end of the war. “The Holocaust memorial will be a way to make sure future generations understand what we went through,” daughter Irina translated his Russian to English.

Irina Spinella, with her father, Holocaust survivor Nathan Koifman and her son, Ken. Koifman was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1931. His family moved to Moscow, Russia. Then the war broke out and, in 1941, Koifman and his mother became one of the many families who evacuated to Uzbekistan by train. In 1943, they moved back to Moscow where his family worked in the military factories until the end of the war. “The Holocaust memorial will be a way to make sure future generations understand what we went through,” daughter Irina translated his Russian to English.

Laurie DuBow, lead volunteer and donor for JFCS’s “The Place We Make … The Place That Makes Us” capital campaign, challenged guests to remember what event, conversation or person first stimulated them to give back.

“I distinctly remember my mother saying that there is always something you can give to those in need, and when you do, it benefits you as well as them,” he said.

Mary Edwards, vice president of fund development on the JFCS board of directors, reported the campaign has nearly raised more than $5.3 million towards the $6 million goal. Funds raised will also renovate JFCS’s old offices on DuPont Station Court, which will be renamed the Allison Stein Robbin Building and  house the new Max Block Food Pantry.

“I am committed to raising the funds necessary to construct and furnish this building and renovate the original offices so that they are mortgage- and debt-free,” DuBow said.

JFCS, founded in 1917, has expanded beyond assisting people in need with food and emergency shelter to a wide variety of community services including adoption services, child welfare, counseling, emergency financial assistance, senior support and dropout prevention.

“People always say, ‘I had no idea that your agency did all this,’” said Colleen Rodriguez, JFCS executive director.

Although JFCS is guided by Jewish values, the agency serves the entire First Coast community. “What most people don’t know is that 80 percent of the people we serve are not Jewish,” she said.

Rodriguez noted that efficiency and wrap-around support were most important as they designed their new building, with the help of Tom Duke Architect, PA, and Matt Taylor, executive vice president, and Jon Witty, senior field supervisor, The Angelo Group general contractor.

The Alan J. Taffet Building, 8540 Baycenter Road, will serve as JFCS’s new headquarters. Other Florida cities which have museums, memorials or education centers about the Holocaust include St. Petersburg, Miami, Dania Beach, Maitland and Naples.


By Karen Rieley
Resident Community News

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