Get to know Talli Dippold, CEO, The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida
You have you been directly impacted by the horrors of the Holocaust. Tell us about that.
Even though all four of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors, no one talked about it. It was just a thing that we were aware of, but we never heard stories from them. We just knew that we didn’t have extended family. They didn’t have parents or siblings. My grandmother finally told us she had left testimony with the Shoah Foundation, Steven Spielberg’s project at the University of Southern California. [More than 56,000 survivors have their video testimonies in USC Shoah Foundation’s visual history archive.] Then we started doing our own digging. As happens frequently with Holocaust survivors they don’t really talk to their children about it, but once the grandchildren start to ask, they will open up.
Do you think without this experience you would still be in this field?
I think I would have chosen to do this work in some capacity. I do think a lot of my passion comes from understanding what it’s like. There are issues here many people can relate to. Many of us have grandparents who had past traumatic experiences, whether it was war, poverty or race issues they didn’t really want to talk about.
How has coming into this new position been for you?
It’s been a phenomenal 11-month period because this organization was so well known in the community and well-established. It was easy to step into the role even during the leadership transition. I could say I’m here and I’m here for the long run. The reason it’s been so easy is because Tess Wise [founder and Holocaust survivor] wrote the mission statement that is so universal, so timeless. Her desire to use the lessons of the Holocaust to fight all forms of hate is relevant. Many organizations have had to readjust their mission or change the way they do things. We have not had to. Our 35-year legacy is stronger than ever.
Why do you think there has been such a rise in divisiveness?
A lot of the hatred is being fueled by online platforms. It used to be if you had something to say it was face to face. But now there is this entire underbelly that not only allows people to be anonymous but also to find other like-minded people. People turn to these platforms when they are disgruntled, when there are economic challenges and when they feel democratic ideals are being challenged. Our mission is more relevant than ever.
A lot of your programs are education based. Can you tell us about some of them?
We have the UpStanders program [a bullying prevention initiative] for children. We also want to help the educators. This summer we have a teachers’ institute to help educators find the best resources for their students. Even further, what we are hearing from the community is how to control how our children are using social media. As a society we are going to have to address some of these challenges.
And you have a big project on the horizon, the Holocaust Museum for Hope & Humanity that will be located downtown on the former Orlando Chamber of Commerce site. What can you tell us about that?
We are looking forward to the new museum being more centrally located for better access for students as well as tourists and community members. Downtown Orlando is an incredible gateway to culture, and we feel like we will be a wonderful addition to what already exists. The museum is partnering with the USC Shoah Foundation because of the shared mission to tell the story of the Holocaust through the voices of those who lived it.
We will always use the Holocaust as the lens through which we view other genocides and historic moments. And everything will be engaging and interactive – we are really building a museum for the next generation. The biggest challenge in building a new museum is operating the existing one – finding the balance between the need to be relevant in the moment and in the future. We want to resonate and be cutting edge years from now, but we are here to address the challenges of today.
For mor information, visit holocaustedu.org.