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Plans in Works to Build Human-Rights Center

January 28, 2010 By:
Melissa Jacobs, JE Feature
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An artist's rendering of a new entity next to the Holocaust memorial

Plans are under way to create a Center for Human Rights Education adjacent to the existing Holocaust memorial at 16th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The City of Philadelphia will be leasing the 10,000 square feet adjoining the Monument to the Six Million Jewish Martyrs to the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, which hopes to make the center a reality.

Funding is the next big hurdle. The city's lease states that the foundation has five years to acquire the monies necessary to build the structure.

The organization has already commissioned Moshe Safdie, architect of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, to design the center.

Safdie, who began his career in Philadelphia back in 1962 when he joined the local office of renowned architect Louis Kahn, is also currently designing the renovation and addition to the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Jeffrey Schwartz, president of the Remembrance Foundation, described Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's support as none other than "overwhelming and enthusiastic" for what has been a plan that's been evolving over several years.

"We started out thinking that we would use the space for a memorial park," said Schwartz. "When we met with Holocaust education leaders, they made it clear that they wanted a center," which is expected to educate tourists, teachers, students, police officers and other groups.

Elaine Culbertson, chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Holocaust Education Council, and other educators have been consulted on the project. Determining specific programming is a future goal.

But the first step, she said, has been taken -- officially acquiring the land.

The city is, in fact, leasing the area to the Remembrance Foundation for 40 years, with an additional four 10-year renewals, for a total of 80 years, at a token fee of just $1 a year, a nominal charge historically used to signify a property transaction that benefits the renter without enriching the landlord.

For Schwartz, that may very well represent the deal of the century.

A bit tongue in cheek, he exclaimed: "Nutter drives a hard bargain!"

To learn more, log on to: philaholocaustmemorial.org. 

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