Not to Forget: The Story of Harry Reiss and the Creation of the Rockland Center for Holocaust Studies
By Marion Reiss
MP Press, 2013
My generation was raised in the shadow of the Holocaust, as children and grandchildren of survivors. Not only at family gatherings but in school, year after year, we encountered the horrors in the multi-media curricula developed to ensure that we never forget them. However, as the data from the Pew study on American Jews clearly shows, this intensive Holocaust education is not enough to forge a lifelong Jewish identity. Individuals need more than historical memories, however powerful, to guide life-altering decisions such as whom to marry and where to settle down.
Marion Reiss’ Not to Forget, a book about her husband Harry Reiss’ extraordinary efforts to build and maintain the Rockland Center for Holocaust Studies, shows in painstaking detail the enormous price of such memorials, both in millions of dollars and in vast communal resources of talent and time. Is the communal benefit of these museums worth the cost if they do not sufficiently energize the next generation? If they provide comfort and a sense of continued purpose to survivors, an immeasurable benefit, then they are certainly worthy. But as time takes its inevitable toll and the generation of survivors moves on to the Next World, we must consider whether Holocaust museums serve any other purpose.
Not to Forget is not a book about the Holocaust. It is about the generation after, who struggled to digest the enormity of its horrors and the need to move on as a community for the sake of survival. They grew up with suburban comforts, raising children in safe and happy homes, thriving professionally and socially. That generation’s bravery took the form of remembrance—upholding the sacred memory of the victims, struggling to find lessons from the tragedy, adamantly refusing to escape from the shadow of the Holocaust. Harry Reiss’ noble efforts in creating and sustaining the Rockland Center for Holocaust Studies serve as both a memory for those who were victims and a testament to the nobility of those who were not.
Rabbi Gil Student is book editor of Jewish Action.