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Renovated Nassau Holocaust center reopens

One wall was filled with pictures of families in happy times - girls with bows in their hair, young couples embracing, family patriarchs sitting regally at their dinner tables.

A few paces away, another wall beckoned, this time with more disturbing images: marching Nazis, a glass case holding a star made of yellow cloth reading "Jood," pictures of Jews forced to dig their own graves.

These are among the new exhibits at the recently renovated Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove. What was once a single room bearing a modest display of Holocaust information on posters designed by survivors has been expanded and transformed into a polished six-room museum full of multimedia exhibits and professionally mounted displays.

Thursday, current and former politicians, Holocaust survivors and their families gathered to mark the reopening of the museum, closed for renovation for the past 18 months.

Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) spoke about the importance of the center in light of anti-Semitism.

"We have in recent months witnessed vandalism, desecration and violence against Jews and synagogues on Long Island and in our own state of New York," he said. "It is because we will not permit this shameful conduct to fester and continue on our watch that the work of this remarkable center is so profoundly significant."

The center also offers an expanded library with books and artifacts, and a student learning area with computers. All the artifacts and many of the photographs are from Long Island survivors, said Beth Lilach, education director at the center.

The museum also features information on more recent genocides in places like Rwanda and the Sudan. "Learning about the Holocaust is important. But it's just as important to bridge what happened decades ago to what's happening now," she said. "We have not learned. We must start paying attention and acting."

David Gewirtzman, 81, a former Great Neck resident who now lives in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, was one of the survivors who had put together the museum's original displays.

"I feel very positive about it," he said as he walked around the new exhibits. "It's not just for Jewish people, but for every human being."

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