ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - More than $7 million is included in this year’s state budget to support Florida’s Jewish community, including $1.35 million for the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg.
The museum is one of the largest in the country, with a mission to educate future generations about the dangers of anti-Semitism and hatred.
"We are incredibly honored to be working in partnership with the Florida Department of Education to bring quality, historically accurate holocaust education into classrooms across Florida," said Elizabeth Gelman, Florida Holocaust Museum executive director.
The funds are more than the museum has received from the state over the almost 30 years it has been in existence, and Gelman says there was never a greater need than now.
Nearly three weeks ago, a swastika along with a hateful message was spray-painted on the 1st Avenue side of the museum. St. Petersburg police are investigating it as a hate crime.
"Education is paramount if we're even going to make a dent in prejudice and anti-Semitism and bigotry," Gelman said. "By investing in the Florida Holocaust Museum the State is really investing in quality fundamentals that are shared across the state."
She says some of those state dollars will fund free resources the museum offers to schools and cultural institutions, virtual tools and tours with up-to-date and relevant holocaust learning, and a variety of teacher training so they are prepared as educators.
"For some of them, they were not taught about the Holocaust when they were in school and now have this responsibility to fulfill the Holocaust education mandate," explained Gelman.
The money will also help a technology initiative the museum is working on to preserve the testimony of Holocaust survivors across Florida.