Never Forget

A teacher and a Holocaust survivor come together to tell an amazing story of survival.


Birmingham Holocaust survivor Max Steinmetz told his life story, Determined to Survive: A Story of Survival and One Teacher’s Passion to Bring That Story to Life with the help of Birmingham teacher and writer Amy McDonald. The story not only resonated here in Alabama but traveled all the way back to Steinmetz’s birthplace in Romania, keeping his story of struggle alive and informing new generations a half world away of the importance of remembering the Holocaust.

McDonald has traveled twice to Targu Lapus, Romania. Prior to her second trip, she made a proposal to the mayor to place a Holocaust memorial plaque there in memory of the 717 Jewish victims of the town who were murdered during the Holocaust. The mayor agreed, and with the help of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center (BHEC), a plaque was created and installed on the building adjacent to the empty lot where the Jewish synagogue once stood. McDonald and local officials spoke at the installation ceremony.

Amy McDonald with officials in Romania.

“It is still hard to process and put into words how incredibly touching this experience was,” she says. “I worked and taught at the high school in Targu Lapus for several days and had an amazing time with students and teachers. The ceremony was well attended, well done, and very powerful.

“I still haven’t been able to put into words the emotions I felt when lighting a candle at this new memorial in honor of Max and in memory of his family and so many others,” she adds.

“Amy’s commitment to teach the history and the lessons of the Holocaust to her students led her to the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and to Max Steinmetz,” says Joyce Spielberger, executive director of Birmingham Holocaust Education Center. Those connections furthered her commitment to make sure the people of Targu Lapus knew of and honored the memory of those who made up the once vibrant Jewish community in their midst.

“So much was lost in the Holocaust; Targu Lapus is only one of over 5,000 Jewish communities that were destroyed or barely survived the Holocaust. Amy is an incredible example of how our work with educators makes a difference. Together we keep the lessons of the Holocaust alive, ensuring a more just and humane future for all.”


L’Chaim Event

The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center’s (BHEC) annual L’Chaim event on August 19 in the Jemison Concert Hall at the Alys Stephens Center will honor Joel Rotenstreich, local humanitarian, philanthropist, and fundraiser, for his ongoing commitment to Holocaust education in Birmingham. “The work of the BHEC is very close to my heart,” says Rotenstreich. “We need more teachers teaching kids what it means to be courageous and to speak up when they see something that’s not right.”

Education, social justice, and interfaith unity have been driving forces in Rotenstreich’s many years of community involvement. “When Joel is passionate about a cause, he is very compelling,” said Deborah Layman, BHEC president. “The BHEC has been the grateful recipient of the fruits of his passion for Holocaust education.” The L’Chaim program, a combination of entertainment, education, and recognition, will feature the Steel City Men’s Chorus and special entertainment arranged by Keith Cromwell of Red Mountain Theatre Company (RMTC), including vocalists Caleb Clark, Abijah Cunningham, Cantor Jessica Roskin, and student performers from RMTC’s Conservatory.

L’Chaim is the culmination of the BHEC’s annual fundraising campaign and will be Sunday, August 19, 2:30-4:00 p.m. A dessert reception will follow the program. Tickets are $50 and available at All fundraising proceeds are used to advance the mission of the BHEC, which is to keep the history and lessons of the Holocaust alive so new generations will apply these lessons to their own lives and make a difference in the world for the benefit of all humanity. For more information, call the BHEC at 795- 4176.

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