Ex-gov hails survivors who keep memory alive; Former NJ Gov. Christine Whitman told Holocaust educators, “We need always to be engaged because disengagement can lead to truly tragic occurrences.”

Ex-gov hails survivors who keep memory alive; Former NJ Gov. Christine Whitman told Holocaust educators, “We need always to be engaged because disengagement can lead to truly tragic occurrences.”
By Robert Wiener
NJ Jewish News
April 30, 2009

Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman urged Holocaust educators and Jewish community members to become active in the fight against injustice as an antidote to future acts of genocide.

She spoke April 24 as Raritan Valley Community College’s Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies wound up a three-day memorial for victims of the Shoa.

“We must be involved in our communities wherever we see things start to go astray,” said Whitman, who left the governorship in 2001 to become George W. Bush’s first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. “We mustn’t be afraid to speak out if we see people doing or encouraging bad things. We need always to be engaged because disengagement can lead to truly tragic occurrences.”

Whitman spoke at a luncheon at the North Branch campus honoring three New Jersey Holocaust survivors — Maude Dahme, Ursula Powell, and Tova Friedman.

“It is not easy going back over and over again over the worst periods of your life,” Whitman said, referring to the survivors. “It is not easy to remind yourself of people you lost and always face that question of ‘Why me? Why did I survive?’

“These are people who are determined that one of the missions they have is to take that message and bring it out and give and life and breath,” said Whitman, who now heads an environmental consulting firm. “It isn’t just something people read in a textbook. It isn’t possible that the naysayers say, ‘This didn’t happen.’

Added Whitman: “Those of us who survive and those of us who hear their message have to be their conscience. We have to be the ones who are constantly saying, ‘You don’t look the other way.’ Whenever we find things happening — however small — in our communities and our lives, we need to speak out.”