Helen Greenspun Receives National Award


One of the Holocaust Center’s most active volunteers, Helen Greenspun, is being honored by the USA network’s Characters Unite campaign, which identifies leaders in addressing social injustices and bridging cultural divides. USA Network, along with its distribution partners, has announced the 2012 recipients of the Characters Unite Awards. Ten winners were selected from hundreds of nominees nationwide, chosen for their extraordinary efforts in combating prejudice and discrimination while increasing tolerance and acceptance in their communities

Helen was nominated by the Holocaust Center in Maitland and the local BrightHouse network for her many years of outreach to area students. A Holocaust Survivor from Poland, she has dedicated her life to teaching younger generations about the atrocities of the Holocaust. Helen was only 15 years old when she was taken by the Nazis, and she miraculously survived two labor camps and five concentration camps. She lost her parents and two youngest siblings in Treblinka and was reunited with her four other siblings who survived after the war.

Instead of trying to forget the horror and suffering she experienced, Helen decided to share her story as often as she could. Over the past three decades she has spoken to thousands of local students, teachers and community organizations. Her life’s purpose has been to raise awareness and to be a voice for those who did not survive.

Helen, who now lives in Longwood, says she is grateful for the honor, and believes that her testimony has made a difference.

“I get beautiful letters from the children,” she says. “They tell me thank you for visiting us, for telling us about your life. They say that now that they know about what happened to me, and to all the people who did not live, they will not let something like that ever happen again. This is good. This is why I do it.”

She has also been a featured presenter at the Holocaust Center’s Teachers Institute for the past two decades, and has had an enormous impact on many educators. Debbie Callahan, a middle school teacher from Marion County, summed up her experience by stating, “I will forever be grateful for the selfless service Helen has given in her lifetime. I truly believe that there is not a single person who has ever heard her speak, then walk away unchanged. Those of us who have heard her story, and especially those who have had the opportunity to get to know her, realize that Helen Garfinkle Greenspun has brought history to life in a way that no one can deny the reality of the Holocaust. She has made it impossible for anyone to forget.

Helen has served on the Board of the Holocaust Center since its founding, and was honored at its annual membership meeting in 2009. Last year, she announced her intention to retire from speaking, and will only do a few select presentations at the Center. The Center’s Resource Teacher, Mitchell Bloomer, paid tribute to her with the following message: “When Helen spoke at a school, she took more than her story. She took herself. This made the most lasting impact of all. Students who met her often felt a personal connection that they never forgot. By her willingness to share her experiences, Helen taught them to widen their circle of concern – to care about the people, places and events of the wider world. This is her enduring legacy.”

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