Dear Museum Family,
I am sharing with you my plans to step down as CEO of Illinois Holocaust Museum in the coming months. It has been an incredible joy to work with you to achieve the Museum’s mission to Remember the Past and Transform the Future.
From the moment I became CEO in 2014, I’ve been energized by working to share this important history in order to combat hatred, prejudice, and indifference and to make our world a better place.
While we knew we needed to grow the Museum’s reach and impact and strengthen its financial condition, the real magic happened as our incredible team came together with our cherished Survivors to record their testimonies and share their stories in the most impactful and innovative ways that will resonate for generations to come.
It is through this work – developing Virtual Reality testimonies of our Survivors and also interactive Survivor Holograms – that we catapulted the Museum to global leader, changing the trajectory of Holocaust and museum education.
Our immersive VR films featuring the incredible Fritzie Fritzshall and George Brent, as they recount their stories from the grounds of Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Ebensee concentration camps for viewers, have been featured at 16 international film festivals and will reach millions around the globe and in our Richard and Jill Chaifetz Family Virtual Reality Gallery.
As you know, this project followed the development of our groundbreaking Take a Stand Center and interactive, holographic Abe & Ida Cooper Survivor Stories Experience. This technology already is enabling people the world over to converse real-time with holograms of our courageous Survivors, developing empathy and an understanding of our shared humanity.
Our work on the Stories of Survival: Object. Image. Memory exhibition, which shares our common humanity through the objects and stories of Survivors of the Holocaust and of seven other genocides and atrocities, also fills me with pride. When we debuted the exhibition in 2018, we all knew we had created something special. The travelling edition, now at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, and the new outdoor version at Navy Pier, tells an important story at a moment in which it is urgent as ever.
I also treasure the way we have used our special exhibitions and programs to delve deeper into aspects of the Holocaust and to look more broadly at other areas of social justice and human rights – making connections to our world today and working to create a world in which “never again” is a reality for all people.
These projects and our partnerships with hundreds of organizations annually have come to life through two strategic plans and two capital campaigns.
Incredibly generous corporate, individual, government and foundation donors have enabled the Museum to innovate and become a global leader, and they have enabled us to secure the Museum’s financial future. With great anticipation, I look forward to our final bond payment next month that will leave the Museum debt free. And, during this time, including through the pandemic, we have more than doubled the Museum’s endowment and reserves.
I have been humbled these last eight years working to build on the foundation and vision of our wise founders. It is knowing that I will leave the Museum on solid financial footing, with strong momentum, and with an incredible staff and Board team to carry the Museum forward, that I tell you I look forward to a smooth transition and to supporting the Museum for years to come as a passionate donor and friend. Thank you for this incredible opportunity.