Holocaust and modern heroes featured in Take A Stand exhibition


Imagine being able to ask questions of Holocaust survivors not just now while many are in their 80’s, but 10 and 20 years from now after they have died.

Or think about what can happen when no one speaks out against discrimination and injustice.

The new Survivor Stories Theater at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, Skokie
The new Survivor Stories Theater at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, Skokie.

The folks at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie have done more than merely ponder those possibilities and issues.

On Oct. 29, 2017, Take a Stand Center, the museum’s new, three-part permanent exhibition opens to the public.

Visitors can hear 13 Holocaust stories and ask questions of the speakers through  holographic, interactive technology in the Center’s Abe & Ida Cooper Survivor Stories Experience.

In the Goodman Upstanders Gallery, they can listen to the stories of 40 modern heroes who were willing to take a stand for social justice.

Then, inspired by these stories and examples, guests learn how to follow through based on their own convictions at the Take a Stand Lab.

After explaining that survivors telling their stories through holograms grew out of an idea from board member Jim Goodman, Illinois Holocaust Museum CEO Susan Abrams noted that the Shoah Foundation at the University of Southern California had been thinking along the same lines.

Working with Shoah and adding more technical experts, the recording time of each of the survivors in the exhibit was extended to include replies to questions viewers would likely have.  So that after hearing a story the listener is asked, “What do you want to know.”

“The experience is very strong. Custom voice recognition software prompts the answers,” Abrams said. “One of the things we’re doing is helping survivors communicate for generations to come.”

She added, “There is no substitute for human interaction to develop empathy.”

Note: Survivor stories are timed and recommended for ages 11 and older. Click here for reservation.

The Upstander Gallery in the new Take A Stand Center at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.
The Upstander Gallery in the new Take A Stand Center at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.

When moving to modern tales in the internationally-filled Upstanders section, visitors will come across such local heroes as Peace Builder Henry Cervantes at the Chicago-based Peace Exchange that teaches young community leaders to advocate for nonviolence,  Syrian American Medical Society Past President Zaher Sahloul, MD., and Syrian Community Network Founder and Executive Director Suzanne Akras Sahloul.

At the end of another museum exhibit is the sad, important phrase, “Never Again.”

“You’ve heard “Never Again, but never again has not been a reality,” Abrams said.

In the Take a Stand Center is the Take a Stand Lab to help people become engaged. “The third section has tools for change so that an individual, a school an organization can learn to advocate,” she said.

Pointing out that people often ask what one person could do, Abrams said, “This section answers that question, what can you do.”

Tools include how to learn about legislation or petitions and how write to a legislator and how else to act on an issue whether it’s civil rights, social rights or economic rights.

Visitors can take an action tool kit home. To learn more visit tools.

To prove that reaching out and doing something can make a difference, the Lab includes examples of success.

“We want the exhibition to move people from knowledge and inspiration to taking action,” Abrams said.

With a nod to a recent resurgence in activism, she said, “The exhibit is timeless and very timely.”

DETAILS: The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is at 9603 Woods Dr., Skokie, just west of the Old Orchard shopping center. For more information call (847) 967-4800 and visit IL Holocaust Museum.