Many public school districts in North Florida do not have the resources to meet state requirements for Holocaust education. Now, a Tallahassee family is offering a large matching grant to attract more donations from the public to this effort.
Just under half a century ago, Ken Boutwell co-founded MGT of America of Tallahassee, which provides consultancy services to public sector organizations. Since then, he has been President and CEO of the company. But he said it was an experience his late wife Jean had not so long ago that had a dramatic impact on his life.
“John was in Rabbi Romberg’s Lunch ‘n Learn, which contained both Jews and Christians. And John claimed it was the best religious discussion she had ever had in her life. She returned to home talking about all the people that were in that class and Barbara Goldstein from the Holocaust Education Resource Council was in that class and John started talking about everything Barbara does, “he recalls.
Boutwell said this motivated him to meet the woman who had impressed his wife so much.
“I got interested in the Holocaust. Barbara loaded me with books and I started reading and in the process I learned everything that Barbara was trying to do, but she was trying to do it on a limited budget. Barbara is a person who left a great job – paid for by the state, to take that job for much less pay and devote her life to it. ”
Things changed dramatically and tragically in November 2020, when Jean Boutwell passed away. Her husband Ken said he and his adult children Jennifer and Jeff considered a fitting tribute. Supporting the Holocaust Education Resource Council – also known as HERC – seemed the obvious choice.
“We decided we needed to see what we could do to help, especially in remembering Jean.”
Boutwell said the remembrance will take the form of a very large challenge grant.
“As our family said, for every dollar you donate, we will match that dollar with another dollar up to $ 60,000.”
HERC board chairman Segundo Fernandez explained that any financial help is desperately needed.
“The state demands that the Holocaust be taught as part of our public school programs, but it does not fund those programs.”
HERC executive director Barbara Goldstein said school districts in North Florida’s most rural and income-poor areas are particularly disadvantaged.
“We currently don’t have any outreach in other parts of North Florida, but they’re absolutely not getting it at all.”
This is why, she said, the Boutwell Challenge grant is so appreciated.
“We want to make sure every teacher knows what they need and so we are giving them all of this, but we can do it more and better and with more help with the funding they will give us.”
Which, she insisted, will mean that every school district in the region will be able to offer students a full and comprehensive program of teaching Holocaust awareness.
“When you go to see these teachers or the teachers come to us, they leave with such a wealth of knowledge and such a level of confidence that they can now go back to their classrooms and schools and teach their students the story they are supposed to learn. To do.”
With the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism, Challenge Grant creator Ken Boutwell called the campaign “critical.”
“I read the other day that one of the survivors said, ‘I’m telling my story so that my past is not your future.'”
An imperative which, according to the chairman of the board of directors of HERC, Segundo Fernandez, will become even more essential over time.
“Very soon, the historical memory will be diluted. And without an organization like HERC preserving this history for future generations, is it not the 19th philosopher in Santayana history who said: ‘Those who do not know the history are doomed to repeat it? ‘”
Donations to the Holocaust Education Resource Council can be made through the organization’s website.