Melinda Goldrich had long known about USC Shoah Foundation’s dedication to collecting eyewitness experiences — her father, Jona, gave testimony. But it was not until early in 2015 that she learned the full range of the Institute’s educational outreach. Traveling to Poland as part of the Auschwitz: The Past is Present program inspired the Aspen, Colo., resident to visit the Institute to find out more about such programs as IWitness and New Dimensions in Testimony.
Heartened by what she saw, Goldrich hosted an event in Aspen about the Digital Future of Holocaust Memory and Education to spread the word to potential supporters. Executive Director Stephen Smith spoke, and attendees included survivors and USC Shoah Foundation Board of Councilors members, as well as area residents who started off interested and quickly became riveted.
Goldrich says she is committed to supporting the Institute’s work, which not only captures testimonies but also uses them in innovative, exciting educational programs to benefit current and future generations.
“From my experiences in traveling, you find out there are people without knowledge or understanding of [the Holocaust], whether they’re educated people or not,” Goldrich says.
Part of the challenge is that, for many decades, the Holocaust was often taught about in uninspiring ways, she adds. Educators mostly showed black-and-white photographs and newsreel footage while emphasizing the number of people killed.
Programs like IWitness enable students to get a much more personal understanding. “It’s presented as being about people, not numbers,” Goldrich says. “Not everybody’s going to have a Holocaust survivor in their family or in their community to relate it to, so you need organizations like USC Shoah Foundation to provide that for others, especially as the generation of survivors available to share firsthand information is rapidly diminishing.”