HOUSTON, TX (Nov. 10, 2006) – More than 930 people were on hand Nov. 9 as Holocaust Museum Houston honored two Houstonians who were driving forces behind the Museum’s creation and growth as an international leader in Holocaust education.
Martin J. Fein and Sandra G. Weiner were recognized at the 10th Anniversary presentation of the Museum’s Guardian of the Human Spirit Award at the InterContinental Houston hotel, 2222 West Loop South.
The event raised almost $410,000 to support ongoing educational programs that promote awareness of the dangers of prejudice, hatred and apathy against the backdrop of the Holocaust and to enable the Museum to continue to offer free general admission to the public. This year’s luncheon was chaired by Tali and Eric Blumrosen and presented by The Lester & Sue Smith Foundation, with Houston Modern Luxury magazine as the primary media sponsor. Finance chairs were brothers Jonathan H. Lack and Stephen P. Lack.
The Museum established the Guardian of the Human Spirit Award in 1997 as a platform for acknowledging dedicated Houstonians who have worked to enhance the lives of others and to better humankind.
A highlight of the event came when Fein’s mother, Holocaust survivor Celina Fein, rose to present the award to her son and recalled her memory of 1945 and her realization that her entire family had been massacred. "I asked myself the question: 'How can I go on with life? How can I enjoy life? How can I ever be happy again?'"she recalled.
"You Martin," she said, "are my answer."
Fein later dedicated his award to his mother and late father, Ely Fein, and told the crowd the event offered an opportunity to reflect on what the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust would expect of those alive today.
He cited seven lessons of the Holocaust he said he had learned while leading the Museum: that ordinary people have a moral choice and must act against or be complicit with injustice; that man has an incredible capacity to inflict cruelty on his fellow man; that words of hate that are not taken seriously or countered lead to more hateful words and, ultimately, actions or death; that righteous people have the capacity to become heroes; that if any one group is allowed to be stripped of dignity and basic human rights, then genocide is inevitably not far behind; that early action is required against evil; and that one solitary individual can, in fact, change the course of history for the better.
He recalled more recent incidents of hate in the modern world and their parallels with the Holocaust and told the group, "It is up to us – each one of us individually and us collectively – to choose… to take a clear moral stand."
Weiner recalled her own upbringing before World War II and said that memory "became the driving force of my life. I was determined to help those left behind to survive and to thrive."
"I feel such pride when I think of the thousands of school children who have been impacted by this Museum. I feel so much pride that so many different kinds of people in this city see the Museum as a symbol of unity and hope," she told the crowd.
Weiner has been an active and dedicated member of the Jewish community on the local, national and international levels since her arrival in Houston from Duluth, Minnesota more than 50 years ago. Educated in Minnesota and then at the University of Colorado, her organizational involvement has touched on every aspect of Jewish and civic life, particularly in the building of the Houston Jewish community, starting initiatives for Jewish cultural projects nationally and support for the State of Israel.
At Congregation Brith Shalom, she served as the first female president of a local synagogue. Her next leadership role was in the Jewish Federation, the cause that has best exemplified her belief that each person is responsible for the other and that led to creation of the Museum. As its president in 1990, she embraced the idea of Holocaust survivor Siegi Izakson and others that Houston needed a permanent education center and memorial and used her influence to raise funds and bring the Museum to reality. Since that time, she has remained an active member of the Museum’s Board of Directors.
It was Weiner who recruited Fein to serve as the new Museum’s founding chairman, a role which saw him move the Museum from a single room at the Federation’s own building first, then into its own offices in Southwest Houston and later into its current award-winning facility in Houston’s Museum District.
Since settling in Houston in 1973, Fein has been actively involved in the Houston community. He is a recipient of the JINSA Community Leadership Award and the New Life/New Leadership Award of the State of Israel Bonds. He has also served on several bank boards and currently serves on the board of Compass Bank Houston. He has also served on the boards of the Society for the Performing Arts, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Congregation Beth Yeshurun and the Jewish Federation. He is past chair of the Southwest Region Board of the Anti-Defamation League as well as a past member of the National Commission and the National Executive Committee of the ADL. Fein is married to Dr. Kelli Cohen Fein and has five children.
Previous recipients of the award have included Naomi Warren and Fred Zeidman, Joan and Stanford Alexander, Ed Wulfe, the H-E-B grocery chain, Jack Blanton, The Houston Chronicle, the Rev. William A. Lawson, Ron Stone, Julie and Ben Rogers, Linda P. Lay and Siegi Izakson.
Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the six million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.
Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline Street, Houston, Texas 77004.
For more information, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.