By John Burton
MIDDLETOWN – Construction work for the most part will be completed by mid-August for a new facility to house the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education on the Brookdale Community College’s Lincroft campus.
The center, which has been operating at the community college, 765 Newman Springs Road, for about 34 years, is gearing up for the completion of its new facility, which will be more than twice the size of its current 4,000 square feet location.
The new space was built on the current site’s footprint where the center has been situated for the past 17 years, next to the college’s Bankier Library, Executive Director Dale Daniels said.
The center was initially located in “a variety of tiny little spaces,” around the campus, Daniels said.
Now, she said, “We’re going to have an opportunity to have a beautiful new space all our own.”
Completion of the construction phase doesn’t mean the need for the money to pay for the building also has been completed. The center is conducting a capital campaign to raise the money to pay for the finished work.
The campaign is working to raise $1.5 million. So far, Daniels said, the effort has raised approximately $900,000, which includes a generous donation from the college.
The new facility will house the center’s programs and is expected to eventually include an expanded permanent exhibit focusing on local Holocaust and genocide survivors.
The center houses the only Holocaust and genocide archive in the state, according to Daniels.
This space “will really allow that to expand and meet the necessary requirements for temperature and humidity control,” thus ensuring the display’s safety and continued availability for generations to come, she said.
That is at the core of what the center has been doing and looks to continue.
“Our focus is to educate, inspire and empower the children and the teachers, and of course, the general community members to learn and take action for social justice and make changes in our local community and beyond,” Daniels said.
The center’s educational programs, which serve about 15,000 students and educators annually on the campus and around Monmouth County, have covered such topics as the history of the Holocaust, contemporary slave trade and human trafficking around the world, human rights abuses, and, closer to home, ways to address and prevent bullying for youngsters in schools and adults in the workplace, according to Daniels.
The center has worked with the prosecutors’ offices in Monmouth and Ocean counties on programs with youths who committed bias crimes. So far, of the 82 offenders who have participated in the program, “not one has returned to the system for a bias crime,” she said.
The center was one of 140 organizations that participated in a worldwide dramatic presentation of The Laramie Project, about the murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, a victim of a hate crime.
The National Endowment of the Arts recently awarded a $15,000 for the center to participate in the Big Read project. “The focus is to reach lapsed and reluctant readers” by having participants all read the same work. The work, A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gaines will be read by middle- and high-school students from around the county and some 50 inmates, incarcerated in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, Freehold.
The themes of the novel “resonate with our mission of human dignity,” Daniels said. “That’s exactly what we’re about.”
Sister Helen Prejean, the Roman Catholic nun made famous by the book and movie Dead Man Walking is scheduled to participate in the program and will appear at the college. Gaines is expected to be available at the center through videoconferencing.
In honor of the new facility, the center is sponsoring a 5K run on Sunday, Aug. 26, to benefit the capital campaign. Local Holocaust survivors will be on hand for the event and take part in a ceremonial walk and awards ceremony.
The event, like others the center conducts, will allow, “our children the opportunity to learn about the Holocaust and genocide from their neighbors, friends,” Daniels said, The center is continuing to accept donations to underwrite construction and programs. Contributions can be sent to the college in care of the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide.