By Pamela Price
The desert comes alive this month with snowbirds returning to their winter homes. The Tolerance Education Center in Rancho Mirage is one destination everyone should agree on visiting this season, because it personifies that old adage, “think locally, act globaly.” Thanks to the center’s founders, Earl an Shirley Greif, this 4,000 square-foot resource center opened in 2009 brims with information on tolerance through education.
Talia Lizemer-Hawley, the center’s new education coordinator, comes to the area from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Lizemer-Hawley will work to continue the center’s dedication to education using guest speakers, a computer center, library, exhibits, documentary screenings in the center’s 80-seat theater and many other ongoing events. Admission is always free.
Center director Melisse Banwer describes the center’s goal as being, “to strive for the elimination of hatred and prejudice from our world through education while recognizing atrocities both past and present. That is why we offer in-house programs designed for middle and high school students.”
The center’s schedule during the academic year, September through June, is therefore very busy.
“Students are bussed here with their teachers to learn about the meaning of intolerance and how it is manifested,” she explains. “Currently our exhibit is “Para Todos Los Ninos: Fighting Segregation in California.” This exhibit explores the segregation that occurred in rural Orange County before it was brought to a hault in court. The center also has exhibits on the Armenian Genocide, along with the status of religious and racial oppression in the 21st century.
The commitment and concern on the part of the Greifs is a story in itself. Earl arrived in Los Angeles in the 1940s after harrowing experiences during the Holocaust. His vision of tolerance eventually led him to inspire others to construct the Desert Holocaust Memorial in Palm Desert Civic Center Park, among other things.
That is why the center’s gala honoring the Greifs March 2, 2013, at Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, is an event so near and dear to the hearts of the center’s supporters and friends.
American rabbi, professor and filmmaker Michael Berenbaum is the guest speaker; radio personality “Bulldog” Bill Feingold will be master of ceremonies.
The center holds a weekly film screening as well. The documentary “It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl” is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 4. This is the latest production from Moriah Films, the two-time Academy Award-winning documentary film division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. It explores how and why Herzl became the father of the nation of Israel. His vision was steadfast, and while he understood where Europe’s Jewish community was headed as early as the late 19th century, it took him a lifetime to convey the message. A question-and-answer session and reception will follow.
The Tolerance Education Center
35147 Landy Lane
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270