‘A Force to be Reckoned With’

Beth Goldsmith, honored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, says it was her husband’s death that pushed her to be more involved and more philanthropic. (provided)

Beth Goldsmith, honored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, says it was her husband’s death that pushed her to be more involved and more  philanthropic.

This past Sunday at Woodholme Country Club, Beth Goldsmith and the Goldsmith Family Foundation were honored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for the Foundation’s dedication to the museum’s Bringing the Lessons Home program.

The Goldsmith Family Foundation was created in 1991 after Goldsmith’s late husband, Harold, died tragically in a small plane crash.

The event commemorated 20 years of the Bringing the Lessons Home initiative, which has educated tens of thousands of students and transformed how young people from all walks of life understand the history of the Holocaust and its relevance in today’s world, according to organizers.

The night was filled with personal stories not only of Holocaust survivors, but also of participants of the Holocaust Museum’s other educational outreach initiatives. Attendees heard the story of an unlikely friendship between Vienna-born survivor Margit Meissner and her future “teacher,” African-American community leader James Fleming, who now serves as a program coordinator in the museum’s youth and community initiatives department. African-American community leader Rebecca Dupas, who participated in the Bringing the Lessons Home program in 2000 and now works at the museum, impressed the audience with a poem, “The Unlikely Voice,” ending with the words, “And I am reminded that silence must never be my choice.”

Goldsmith says that the museum’s ability to engage and educate members of the African-American community channels “the parallels of history among African-American and Jews.”

The event, and the Goldsmith’s family’s philanthropy, helped support three programs identified as critical to a sustainable trajectory of educational outreach by the museum: its school outreach program; its ambassador training program; and its summer internship program. All engage inner-city students and future educators for the museum.

Beth Goldsmith and her family are no strangers to philanthropy or leadership within the Jewish world. Goldsmith served as women’s campaign chair for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore in 1986 and as its annual campaign chair in 2012. Today, she serves on the board of the Jewish Federations of North America and the board of governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel. She also serves on the board of directors and as a co-chair of the Israel & Overseas Committee at The Associated.

Goldsmith credits her late husband for inspiring her philanthropic edge, saying that his passing served as the catalyst for her communal involvement. She told of the pride she felt when Harold Goldsmith’s Baltimore Sun obituary highlighted his philanthropy.

She hopes others will be driven by the mindset of “what will you be remembered for?”

Pointing to the importance of Goldsmith’s Bringing the Lessons Home cause, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiese, a Holocaust survivor, said in a video presentation, “I don’t want the past to become anyone’s future.”

In lauding Goldsmith, Judge Chaya Friedman, who was appointed to the Holocaust Memorial Council by President Barack Obama in 2010, called her “a force to be reckoned with” and pointed to her “unbelievable heart and devotion to philanthropy and the Jewish people.”

Leslie Pomerantz, senior vice president of development at The Associated, remarked that she is “always amazed with Beth’s dedication to Jewish causes and how this dedication is always met with remarkable compassion.”

“Beth epitomizes someone who expresses leadership and commitment to the Jewish past, present and future,” added Michael Hoffman, chief planning and strategy officer at The Associated.

With a bittersweet smile, Goldsmith herself veered into the past, remembering events of decades ago. She said simply: “Harold was the person who got me involved with the Jewish community.”

Justin Hayet is a local freelance writer. He can be contacted at jhayet1@binghamton.edu.

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