LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Holocaust Museum LA announced Monday it has received a $5 million gift from The Smidt Foundation that would move the institution closer to its goal of breaking ground this summer on a campus expansion.
The expansion aims to double the museum’s existing area in Pan Pacific Park, increase visitor capacity and educational programs to greater numbers of students and schools, and incorporate new technology to preserve and present Holocaust survivor testimonies, said Beth Kean, the museum’s chief executive officer.
“Trees are considered symbols of life and hope across cultures and faiths, and in many ways our museum is a tree of life within our community, rooted in Holocaust survivor stories of courage and resilience,” Kean said in a statement.
“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 antisemitism, racism and hatred.”
The announcement comes in the wake of a recent Anti-Defamation League report citing a nationwide 34% rise in antisemitic incidents in 2021, and a major surge in 20 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, where the ADL documented 14 antisemitic assaults last year, according to the museum.
The Smidt Foundation gift is the largest-ever contribution to the museum from a family or foundation without familial ties to the Holocaust or the survivors who founded the museum more than 60 years ago, Kean said.
The museum said the gift will be used as a challenge grant to encourage more supporters — especially the next generations of donors — to build on the legacy and courage of the institute’s founding survivors and their families.
Through the “Tree of Life Challenge,” The Smidt Foundation will match all gifts 2:1, effectively tripling the impact of each donation.
The Smidt Foundation was founded by Susan and Eric Smidt to support civil justice and humanitarian organizations.
“We believe deeply that it is our responsibility to ensure that future generations learn the lessons of the Holocaust and, in particular, the danger of silence in the face of hate,” said Eric Smidt, chief executive and owner of Harbor Freight Tools.
Susan Smidt added that the gift “is about taking a stand against hatred, racism, antisemitism and bigotry. Holocaust Museum LA will help teach Angelenos how to do that for generations to come.”