Date ArticleType
2/28/2019 Member News

The Florida Holocaust Museum Hosts Sold Out Benefit in St. Petersburg!


The FHM's "To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember" benefit raised over $556,000 to support 

its educational and outreach programs


February 28, 2019 [St. Petersburg, FL] - The Florida Holocaust Museum (The FHM) held its annual To Life benefit at The Vinoy® Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club on Saturday, February 9th. Over 650 supporters of The FHM attended the sold out To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember benefit. The benefit raised over $556,000 to support the Museum's educational and outreach programs. 

The FHM's educational and outreach programs are a vital part of its mission. This past year, The FHM reached over 150,000 people inside and outside the museum, including over 75,000 children and over 800 teachers throughout Florida. The benefit, appropriately titled To Life: Rock, Roll & Remember - finding strength through perseverance, highlighted the Museum's educational and outreach programs, with the overall message that we must remember the Holocaust and ensure that history never repeats itself.

"When I think of the word perseverance, I think of my grandparents. I'm awed by the strength and resolve they exhibited in rebuilding their lives after the horrific and tragic experiences they endured. They never sought pity. It's a miracle they survived. But that wasn't enough for them. Not only did they survive, they thrived. They got up every day after that and they sought to change things for the better for themselves, their family and for the world," said Mike Igel, The FHM's Board Chair. Igel is also the grandson, great-nephew, and nephew of Holocaust Survivors. 

The FHM posthumously honored Bill Graham with the 2019 Loebenberg Humanitarian Award. Graham came to America as a young boy, a Holocaust refugee, with only the clothes on his back. Graham came through Ellis Island as an 11-year-old weighing only 55 pounds and he grew into the man who helped launch the careers of countless rock n' roll artists including the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, and many others. He also spent a large portion of his life saving millions of strangers by staging humanitarian concerts like Live Aid. He had seen evil and injustice and he vowed to make the world a better place. Graham's sons, David and Alex, accepted the award on his behalf. 

Additionally, The FHM presented David and Alex Graham with the Legacy Award. Last year, the museum established its Legacy Award, which is given each year to honor a member of the second or third generation whose commitment to sharing their family's story empowers future generations to use the lessons of the past to create a better future. Because Holocaust Survivor descendants will soon be the ones responsible for ensuring these stories are told, their efforts are becoming more and more essential. 


"David and Alex Graham have done so much to share the inspiring story of their father's life and for demonstrating the incredible perseverance that he showed during and after the war. They used rock n' roll to make the lessons of the Holocaust accessible to people who may not otherwise have their eyes and ears open," said Igel.


During the program, The FHM announced the development of a new area of the Museum, created specifically to educate young people on the Holocaust. The center will be named The Walter and Edie Loebenberg Center for Children and Families. 


The Museum is partnering with the USC Shoah Foundation to offer a new Holocaust virtual reality film experience called Lala, which university educators tested in classrooms and in small groups to determine whether it was appropriate and meaningful content for children age six and up. They found that even the six year olds were able to connect with this beautiful story by Roman Kent, a Survivor of Auschwitz, about his childhood dog Lala. Additionally, The FHM will be creating interactive exhibits to go along with the film, which will be the centerpiece of its new children's and family center - the very first in the country to address the needs of younger children and their parents. 

"Over the last few years, we've noticed that families were bringing younger children into the Museum. Whereas we suggest that the Museum's content is appropriate for grades 5 and up, teachers are asking to bring in much younger students," said Elizabeth Gelman, The FHM's Executive Director. "Roman Kent has found a way to explain prejudice and systematic injustice in a way that people of all ages can connect to. The USC Shoah Foundation turned his story into a virtual reality film, giving us a 21st century tool to connect with and educate young people, and people of all ages."


Concluding the program, Dr. Jeffrey Cohen was also honored with The FHM's 2019 Loebenberg Humanitarian Award. In the midst of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last October, Dr. Cohen and his team managed the care of the shooter. The shooter arrived in the emergency room, shouting "I want to kill all the Jews." Little did he know that among the team in the ER responsible for his life, were Jewish doctors and nurses. One was the son of a rabbi. All of them doing what they were trained and dedicated to do. Save a life, even if it was a hateful anti-Semitic life.

"Dr. Cohen and his staff are the type of humanitarians who rise above their prejudice and demonstrate for the world to see, that they are better than that. That we can all be better than that. A valuable lesson indeed," said Sandy Mermelstein, The FHM's Senior Educator.

The Florida Holocaust Museum is one of only three accredited Holocaust museums in the United States and provides quality Holocaust and human rights education to adults and students. To date, more than 1 million students have learned the concepts of upstander behavior, the rights and responsibilities of living in a democracy, and speaking out against injustice through the Museum's educational outreach.

The FHM invites the community to attend numerous programs, events, and exhibitions, along with its daily educational and outreach efforts, throughout the upcoming year. To learn more about The FHM's upcoming events and exhibitions, visit the Museum online at

The Florida Holocaust Museum is located at 55 5th Street S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

About The Florida Holocaust Museum

One of the largest Holocaust museums in the country, and one of three nationally accredited Holocaust museums, The FHM honors the memory of millions of men, women and children who suffered of died in the Holocaust. The FHM is dedicated to teaching members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides. For additional information, please visit

Photos and Credits

(L to R) Mike Igel, Alex Graham, David Graham, Sandy Mermelstein, and Elizabeth Gelman. The FHM posthumously presents Bill Graham with the 2019 Loebenberg Humanitarian Award during To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember.

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -

(L to R) Mike Igel, Sandy Mermelstein, Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, and Elizabeth Gelman. The FHM presents Dr. Cohen with the 2019 Loebenberg Humanitarian Award during To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember.

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -

David Pearlman and Shair Mezrah, co-chairs of To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember.

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -

Roman Kent receives a standing ovation during To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember.

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -

Dr. Jeffrey Cohen and Roman Kent during To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember.

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -

Chief Anthony Holloway and Elizabeth Gelman.

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -

Mike Igel, Senator Darryl Rouson, and Elizabeth Gelman. 

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -

Elizabeth Gelman and Senator Janet Cruz.

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -

Mike Igel addresses To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember attendees.

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -

Dr. Zena Lansky, Rachael Worthington, Leonard McCue, and Barbara McCue attend To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember.

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -

To Life: Rock, Roll, Remember attendees.

Photo credit: Agostini Photography -