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August 8, 2012 1:37 pm

Holocaust Museum With Focus on Orthodox Jews To Open In Brooklyn Next Spring

avatar by Atara Arbesfeld

An impression from the museum's website.

According to a UJA study conducted last year, 23 percent of Brooklyn’s 2.4 million residents are Jewish, including an estimated 9,000 Holocaust survivors, the largest survivor population outside of Israel. Kings County is the heart of New York City’s Orthodox Jewish community with enclaves in neighborhoods such as Borough Park, Flatbush, and Crown Heights. Now, New York’s most Jewish borough will also include its own Holocaust museum, geared towards religious Jews.

“Jewish children in Brooklyn aren’t getting much exposure to the Holocaust,” explained the new center’s director, Rabbi Sholom Friedmann, to the New York Daily News. “A museum in such a Jewish heavy area makes sense.”

The Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center is anticipated to be opened next year as Brooklyn’s first Holocaust museum, as well as the first Holocaust museum in the world to focus exclusively on Orthodox Jews. According to the center’s website, the mission of the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center is “transmitting an appreciation of the spiritual and moral heroism,” of the Jewish victims.

The center’s building is four stories high and consists of a museum, research library, and an interview room where the elderly can chronicle their experiences from the war. City officials are requesting families whose relatives were victims of the Holocaust to donate relics such as photographs and paperwork from the Nazi-era. The museum is also collecting religious artifacts from the Holocaust including books, Torah scrolls, and ritual garments such as talleisim, or prayer shawls.

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The donations were “primarily from Borough Park,” according to the center’s designer David Layman. Layman is also responsible for co-creating the exhibits at the National September 11th Memorial & Museum.

“Both stories are very similar,” Layman said, recounting why he chose to do work on the Holocaust museum after his work on the 9/11 memorial. “They are both events that changed humanity forever.”

The faith and religious devotion of the victims is a recurring theme that will be shown throughout the museum. Rabbinical rulings and responsa written in the ghettos and camps will be on display at the museum, including a ruling which permitted Jews in the ghettos to eat non-kosher food. “The Orthodox were singled out. They were more noticeably Jewish,” explained Rabbi Friedmann.

One elderly Washington Heights woman recently donated her German visa from January 1939 showing that she was one of the last Jews to escape the country.

“These facts need to be documented, so that there is no question that this war really happened,” said Norman Gold, 55, a Crown Heights resident who is donating his parents marriage certificate. “It is critical that the next generation is brought up knowing about this.” Gold’s parents were the first Jewish couple to be married at the displacement camp in Landsberg, Germany, just a few months after the Nazis were defeated in 1945.

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