Understanding the Kaplan Feldman family’s mission to build Holocaust awareness

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Cheryle Feldman Atkin (left) with her mother, Gloria Feldman, and her daughter, Sara Atkin.

By Cheryle Feldman Atkin, Special For The Jewish Light

(Editor’s Note: Cheryle Feldman Atkin, the daughter of Gloria Kaplan Feldman and Rubin Feldman, for which the new Holocaust museum is named, delivered these comments at a ribbon cutting for the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum on Nov. 2, 2022.)

On behalf of my mother, Gloria Kaplan Feldman, my late father, Rubin Feldman, my children Sara and Brian, my brother, Steven, my Uncle David Kaplan, and my nephews, I thank you for joining me here on this momentous day, the ribbon cutting of the Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum.  

While I firmly believe that my mother, Gloria Kaplan Feldman, should be standing here addressing all of you, I stand here out of obligation.  I am obligated to tell the story of my family and their unexplainable survival of the Holocaust as well as the accounts of others who either survived or have family members who survived the horrific atrocities.  

I also stand here because I am able.  I am able to speak while others are not able to stand and speak their truths and their histories because they are either no longer with us or because they do not have the capability to speak about their unending suffering.  

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This museum stands as a vessel to fulfill our obligation to teach about the Holocaust to make certain that no other individuals are subjected to the same injustice and attempted destruction.  Together and through the visitor experience at this Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum, we can make the world a place where antisemitism, bigotry and hatred are eliminated.

We are obliged and able to focus on the tagline of the museum, which is the most important to my family.  In honor of the survivors — because they have been able to recount the unfathomable horrors and triumphs of their experiences before, during and after the Holocaust.  In memory of the victims — because they cannot speak for themselves so we must speak for them and retell their experiences.

Only my parents, my grandparents, my uncle and a small portion of my extended family survived the Holocaust through determination, creativity and a lot of luck.  My mother has been steadfast in her actions to contribute to the community, here and abroad, to help repair the world, “tikkun olam.”  With every future generation of the Jewish population, she is “dancing on Hitler’s grave.”  

Yes, we are honored to have our family name on this transformational museum, however, we believe that the museum stands not because of us, but because of so many people:

• The survivors and their families

• Our founding families who had a vision for a museum more than 30 years ago

• The leaders in the Jewish Federation and the Holocaust Museum team, past and current; who dared to dream of a more expansive building

• The donors who answered the call

• The architects who designed the dream

• The crafts people who physically built the structure

• And everyone here who recognizes the importance of this museum

As the prominent ner tamid (eternal light) in the logo reminds us, the impact of the museum’s teachings will never be extinguished.  The history of the Holocaust will never be extinguished.  The Jewish people will never be extinguished.  

I say to all of you, you are now obliged to keep Holocaust education ever-present and to strive to eliminate hatred in our world.  My family is elated to be part of this impactful Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum.