The Lighter Side featuring Lory Cooper, tour manager at St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum


Briefly describe your job?

When we complete our renovations and open back up in late summer, I will schedule field trips and volunteers to lead them.

What are you looking forward to the most when the museum reopens?

A new gallery unique to our museum is called “Roles and Perspectives.” It focuses on the various players involved in the Holocaust and is centered around the idea of choice. It shows the many gray areas and that one nearly always has a choice. For example, even a Nazi committing many horrendous acts could still help save someone in a brief moment of compassion. This happened to my grandma, when a neighbor—who had become a Nazi—recognized her at Auschwitz and chose her for a special selection with better work conditions.

Does the fact that your grandparents were survivors make your job particularly meaningful?

Absolutely. I have a picture with them at my desk. In my grandma’s Shoah testimony from the 90s, she mentions that I would ask her lots of questions and wanted to know everything. I was only 10 when that was recorded. When I got this job, I thought, “My grandma prophesized me being here!”

Have you ever seen a particularly impactful experience from a visitor to the museum?

A couple of months after I started, I got a call from a middle school principal who needed guidance. Some boys had been in his office because they’d engaged in antisemitic and white supremacist banter. I immediately offered to give them a tour. A couple of days later, they visited and heard from a survivor, then had lunch at my family’s restaurant (Kohn’s Deli). I heard back from their teacher how impactful the experience was and that he’d already seen a change in the students.

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

Being the grandchild of survivors, my experience with the difficult content has been through the lens of “happily ever after.” My focus around the Holocaust is hope and how we can use its lessons to improve our lives and our world.

When you’re not at work, what do you do to relax and unwind?

For fun, I love fitness and I run, cycle and participate in triathlons. I live right across from Forest Park and I take my dog there daily.