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On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, New Orleans Couple Explains Why the Holocaust Must Continue to Be Remembered

NEW ORLEANS – The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will host its 2021 “What You Do Matters” Southeast Virtual Event on Feb. 11, 2021, at 7 p.m., chaired by Mara and Joshua Force of New Orleans, to gain support for the vital mission of the Museum: preserve the memory of the Holocaust and bring its lessons to future generations.

Despite the pandemic, hundreds of supporters of the Museum from New Orleans, the entire state of Louisiana, and all across the Southeast region of the country plan to join together virtually during what has been a difficult time for our nation – a time for reflection and action.

“Participants will see firsthand how the Museum has adjusted to these extraordinary times by bringing Holocaust education and awareness to audiences virtually, and how the critical lessons of the Holocaust—lessons about the fragility of societies, the nature of hate and the consequences of indifference—remain vital,” says Robert Tanen, the Museum’s Southeast regional director.

Featuring special guests Morgan Freeman, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jason Alexander, Ray Allen and others, the virtual event will underscore why the choices we make matter.

“Chairing the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s ‘What You Do Matters’ event is important to us because it is clear that antisemitism did not end with the Holocaust,” said Mara and Joshua Force. “This type of hate went underground, but now seems to be crawling back into mainstream spaces, making it our responsibility to work tirelessly to ensure that ‘Never Again’ is always the reality.”

Mara’s grandparents, Misha and Vera Meilup (z”l), met after World War II when Vera was searching for her brother after liberation.

Vera Meilup, of Kovno, Lithuania, was a young adult when her whole family was moved into the Kovno ghetto. Her father Hirsch died in the first roundup of Jewish men and her husband Max and daughter Ruth died in the liquidation of the ghetto. Vera survived the ghetto with her mother Luba and was deported to Stutthoff while her brother was taken to Dachau. She, her mother, and her brother survived and were reunited after the war.

Misha Meilup of Vilna, Lithuania, lost his entire family during the Holocaust – his parents, sister, wife, and child. After spending time in the Lithuanian ghettos, he ended up in Dachau, where he was liberated by the Americans in April 1945. Shortly after meeting, Misha and Vera were married, and Mara’s mother was born in a displaced persons camp outside of Munich. In 1949, the family came to the U.S. and settled in the Washington, D.C., area.

“Growing up as the daughter of survivors, my mother was very sensitive to the plight of others and discrimination,” says Mara Force. “For my grandparents, they were not as connected to religion, but they made sure to surround themselves with a strong survivor community.”

Mara’s grandparents visited the Museum the first week it opened in early 1993 and later donated a Nazi SS jacket Misha had taken after liberation. At home, they kept a spoon Misha used in Dachau, and now use it as part of family celebrations. Mara has been involved with the Museum throughout her adult life, raising money for the Museum and recently co-chairing a cooking program where a New Orleans chef worked to recreate dishes from a Holocaust family recipe book. In 2012, Mara and her mother also went on a Museum trip to Lithuania to learn more about their family history.

“The trip to Lithuania was life changing and soul defining,” says Mara Force. “It was tragic yet absolutely necessary and amazing because of the access and information we received from the Museum. It was really special to see and experience the places of my grandmother’s youth.”

In New Orleans, Mara is a professor of finance at Tulane University. She is also the Jewish Federation of New Orleans campaign co-chair, has a mayoral appointment to the city of New Orleans revenue estimating committee, and serves on the boards of the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana, Touro Hospital, and the Jewish Community Center.

Joshua is the current board chair of the Jewish Federation of New Orleans, the former board president of ADL’s South-Central Region, and the former board president of Shir Chadash conservative congregation.

Additional chairs for the 2021 “What You Do Matters” Southeast Virtual Event include: Felicia and Kenneth Anchor (Nashville, TN, and Naples, FL); Susan and Steven Breitbart (Cooper City, FL); Karen Lansky Edlin and Andrew Edlin (Atlanta, GA); Lisa and Sandy Gottesman (Austin, TX); Ronne and Donald Hess (Birmingham, AL); Tracy and Robert Slatoff (Boca Raton, FL); Rose M. Smith (Boca Raton, FL); and Fred S. Zeidman (Houston, TX).

Advance registration for this event is required at: http://www.ushmm.org/events/2021-SE-Event. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

For questions, please contact the Southeast Regional Office at 561.995.6773 or southeast@ushmm.org.

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