[Archived from January 23, 2009]
[by Phyllis Shaikun]
When Ernie Marx, Holocaust survivor, activist and beloved member of Louisville’s Jewish community, passed away at age 81 in July 2007, his death was felt throughout the region. For a quarter century before his death, Marx traveled throughout Kentucky and southern Indiana teaching the value of diversity, championing the cause for tolerance and forcefully speaking out against hatred and bigotry by telling his story of surviving the Holocaust.
His special interest was accompanying local public, private and parochial school teachers on an annual trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., a program of the Jewish Community Federation’s Community Relations Council (CRC). A month after his death, the Federation’s Board of Directors passed a resolution honoring Marx and endorsing the establishment of the Ernie Marx Holocaust Education Fund in his memory with the Foundation for Planned Giving. The fund was created to help underwrite the cost of the teachers’ trip to the Holocaust Museum in perpetuity. Donations to the fund continue to be sought in order to fully fund the endowment.
In April 2008, the community was once again in mourning with the loss of Marx’s good friend and fellow Holocaust survivor, Ilse Meyer. She too had been the consummate Jewish community volunteer and in many ways paralleled Marx’s educational efforts and activities over the years by bringing the story of the Shoah to our community and beyond.
In order to recognize both Marx and Meyer, members of the Foundation for Planned Giving’s Endowment Committee approached both families about changing the name of the Ernie Marx Fund to include Meyer’s name. They graciously agreed and the Ernie Marx and Ilse Meyer Holocaust Education Fund was created to honor their legacy.
“I’m very pleased that the Federation is honoring my mother’s memory and the passionate work she did for many years to help ensure that none of us, especially the children, teens and young adults in our society, ever forget the Shoah and that we continue learn about it,” said Ilse’s son, Loren Meyer. “As profound as the effects of the Holocaust have been on her and our family, I am sure that she would be pleased to know that her name is associated with Ernie’s and with the efforts to continue to spread this important message to future generations.”
When asked to comment on the importance of the teachers’ trip to the Holocaust Museum for which the Marx/Meyer Fund was established, Fred Whittaker, a teacher at St. Francis of Assisi School who has been involved with the program for many years, says he continues to be moved by the experience. The purpose of the trip is a serious one, he says, and selecting participants includes an application process that asks teachers to explain how they plan to incorporate Holocaust information into their school curriculum.
“We hold a pre-trip meeting where teachers hear from a Holocaust survivor (or the child of a survivor) discuss what the Holocaust was and is. We use both words because the Holocaust ‘was’ in the historical sense, but its meaning ‘is’ because its lessons continue to happen.
“When teachers go on the trip,” he continued, “they become a part of history and a part of the process. The main goal is to prepare them to accept the obligation of honoring the history of the Shoah by bringing its meaning to students when the subject is discussed. We want classrooms to be places where the Holocaust is honored both as a unique event in Jewish history and on a universal basis as well.”
Whittaker feels the Holocaust Museum trip provides a great opportunity for teachers to begin their own internal journey and develop their own sense of morality and ethics so they are better able to help students begin that journey for themselves. After their visit to the museum, teachers are debriefed at a meeting where they connect with one another on an individual basis. They also connect with the Holocaust in their lives and ultimately share that connection with their students in the classroom.
The contributions made by Ernie Marx and Ilse Meyer to further the objectives of Holocaust education can never be forgotten.
Remembering Ernie Marx and Ilse Meyer
Ernie Marx spent much of his time educating students throughout the region about the lessons of the Holocaust and challenging them to expand their views of the world. He taught a Holocaust course at the High School of Jewish Studies and accompanied many classes and teachers to the Holocaust Museum. He also volunteered with the Chevra Kadisha and Jewish Hospital, helped the FBI develop a course on tolerance, presided over discussions at Four Courts Senior Center and served meals at the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Members of the St. Francis of Assisi Class of 2005 gave him the Tikkun Olam Award and named him an honorary graduate of the school; and in 1996, he received the Ron and Marie Abrams Volunteer of the Year Award from the Federation.
Both Ernie Marx and Ilse Meyer spoke frequently at Yom HaShoah commemorations in Louisville and at Fort Knox and led model Passover Seders at area churches.
Meyer moved to Louisville in 1985, she quickly became involved with Congregation Adath Jeshurun and before long was the person people went to for assistance. She tutored children at Eliahu Academy five days a week for more than 20 years and still found time to bake treats for them and for the rest of the world as well. In 2005, the school’s library was named in her honor and in memory of her sister, Inge.
Meyer was a Hospice volunteer and found solace in making life better for those around her. Her life included carrying the message of the Holocaust to students in public and private schools and to many soldiers at Fort Knox. She also taught Sunday School, was a member of the Yom HaShoah Committee and helped plan and participate in the annual commemoration service. She was selected as the Ron and Marie Abrams Volunteer of the Year in 1997 and the Federation’s Women’s Division named her a “Jewel in Our Crown” in 2005.
If you would like to contribute to the Ernie Marx and Ilse Meyer Holocaust Education Fund, please contact Foundation for Planned Giving Director Frances Skolnick at 451-8840; email firstname.lastname@example.org or on our web site www.jewishlouisville.org.