In the wake of a recent Anti-Defamation League report citing a 34% rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2021, the Holocaust Museum LA has received a $5 million challenge gift from the Smidt Foundation, moving the institution closer to its goal of breaking ground this summer on a dramatic campus expansion that will double the museum’s footprint.

Through the “Tree of Life Challenge,” the foundation will match gifts two to one, effectively tripling the impact of each donation to encourage more people to give. It is the largest-ever contribution to the museum from a family or foundation without familial ties to the Holocaust or survivors who founded the museum more than 60 years ago.

The foundation was begun by Susan and Eric Smidt to support organizations working to achieve opportunity, justice, equality and safety for all.

Eric Smidt, CEO and owner of Harbor Freight Tools, said of the gift: “We believe deeply that it is our responsibility to ensure that future generations learn the lessons of the Holocaust; in particular, the danger of silence in the face of hate.”

Susan Smidt added that “this gift is about taking a stand against hatred, racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry. Holocaust Museum LA will help teach Angelenos how to do that for generations to come.”

When complete, the Jona Goldrich Campus—designed by award-winning architect Hagy Belzberg—will feature outdoor reflective spaces; large galleries and classrooms; an auditorium theater for survivor talks, film screenings, concerts, conferences and public programs; a new pavilion to house an authentic Nazi-era boxcar found outside Majdanek; and a dedicated theater for USC Shoah Foundation’s “Dimensions in Testimony” exhibition that allows visitors to have a virtual conversation with a Holocaust survivor using a holographic capture and voice-recognition software.

According to Beth Kean, CEO of Holocaust Museum LA, “in many ways, our museum is a tree of life within our community, rooted in Holocaust-survivor stories of courage and resilience. Visitors, especially students facing their own extraordinary and unique circumstances, learn critical lessons from the past, share mutual hope for the future, and grow empowered to recognize and confront anti-Semitism, racism and hatred.”

The renovated campus is expected to open in 2024, allowing the museum to immediately triple its current capacity to 150,000 visitors, including 60,000 students. By 2030, the museum expects to welcome half a million visitors annually.


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