Nonprofit to Honor Holocaust Survivor Rena Finder at Annual Benefit
She sat in an empty theater, lost in her thoughts. Rena Finder, a Polish immigrant, had just seen Schindler’s List for the first time. As the other moviegoers filed out of the theater, Finder stayed behind, remaining in her seat for nearly half an hour after the film ended.
“It was a very strange feeling I had,” recalls Finder, a Framingham resident. “I felt like I left my seat and went into the screen.”
The movie had forced Finder to relive some painful moments in her life: At 85, she is the youngest remaining survivor on Schindler’s List, created by the German industrialist Oskar Schindler to save his factory workers from the terrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The world is a terrible place because of the people who do nothing … There’s always something you can do.
As the Spielberg film marks its 20th anniversary, Finder has a reason of her own to remember: Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit education and social justice organization, will honor her at its annual New England Benefit dinner, which takes place tonight at the Westin Copley Place. As many as 900 people—including speaker and former NBA star John Amaechi—are expected to attend.
“Our benefit dinners are very inspirational evenings that celebrate Facing History educators, students, and upstanders who are creating change in their communities,” says Jennifer Novak, the organization’s associate director of communications. “Rena is definitely one of those individuals.”
Founded in 1976, the Brookline-based program provides resources to educators covering topics like the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide in their classes. Jody Snider, a member of Facing History’s New England advisory board and co-chair of this year’s benefit, says the goal of the program is to develop a “more informed citizenry” and eradicate racism and anti-Semitism by encouraging students to study and reflect on these atrocities.
Finder has contributed to these efforts by serving as a volunteer for Facing History for more than 30 years, visiting classrooms throughout New England to share her story. She talks to students about Oskar Schindler, the man she credits with saving her life. She also stresses the importance of helping others and standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Her goal, she says, is to empower students.
“The world is a terrible place because of the people who do nothing,” Finder says. “There’s always something you can do.”