Memory & Action
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Memory & Action

Educating New Generations: Deborah Simon

Deborah Simon has been a long-time investor in educational initiatives around the world and advocate for innovative approaches to education. On a trip to visit a school she supports in Cambodia, Simon helps teach a young girl to read English.

“Many inputs combine to make us empathetic human beings and the Holocaust Museum is a really good input for our children and the world.”

I remember watching documentaries in the 1960s about the Holocaust. As a young girl, I could not understand how people could do this to other people. I still can’t understand it.”

Deborah Simon shared something else that she remembers from that initial confrontation with the inhumanity of the Holocaust: a feeling of pride that the Jewish people survived with their faith intact and an immense sense of belonging.

“The Holocaust was a formative part of my Jewish identity.” Coupled with her late father, Mel Simon’s, example of giving back, it informed her worldview and sense of responsibility for making the future different from the past.

“The danger of xenophobia and the rising hatred we’re seeing around the world and in this country is very troubling to me,” explained Simon.

“The Holocaust teaches us a great deal about the need to defend our freedoms and defend against blaming others for our problems. We must keep teaching this to our children. But for me the question is, ‘How do we teach children to focus on the critical analysis that is so necessary for them to navigate the issues that are dividing our communities today?’”

Deborah Simon

Her support of the Museum’s William S. Levine Family Institute for Holocaust Education reflects her belief in the power of education — the right kind of education. “As tragic as it is, the Holocaust is full of important learning experiences,” she continued. “I believe strongly that teachers are an incredible resource if they are prepared to teach this history effectively and are passionate. I also believe that we must empower students to research history on their own. Experiential teaching is a proven way for kids to learn and retain what they learn far better than if lectured.”

“Many inputs combine to make us empathetic human beings and the Holocaust Museum is a really good input for our children and the world. If you can teach one more child or one more teacher the unfairness of targeting a group because of color, beliefs, religion, or ideals it makes an enormous difference.”

Through her recent generous gift to the Levine Institute, Deborah Simon has joined the ranks of the Museum’s prestigious Founders Society as a Pillar of Memory.

This article was first published in fall 2017.



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