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Holocaust center's backers buoy FAU

May 13, 2008, Palm Beach Post, Holocaust center's backers buoy Fau, by Kimberly Miller.

BOCA RATON — A "groundswell" of support for Florida Atlantic University's Holocaust Center has erupted since word spread of its possible elimination in the face of school budget cuts.

The interest left officials optimistic Tuesday that private donations could keep the center's doors open until state coffers rebound.

FAU's Board of Trustees has made no formal decisions about cutting money for the 12-year-old center, but the school needs to reduce its budget by $9 million and has asked for a minimum of $101,000 in private philanthropy this year to maintain the center.

"There has been a groundswell of questions and calls from people who want to help and we are trying to organize that into an effective fund-raising campaign," said Robert Alrod, president of the League for Educational Awareness of the Holocaust, or LEAH, which was asked to help raise money for the center. "All we need is 1,000 people at $100 each. I don't think this is a difficult sum to raise."

FAU's Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education trains kindergarten through grade 12 teachers how to teach about the Holocaust, conducts workshops, and manages a Holocaust speakers bureau.

FAU has paid for a full-time director and a graduate student to staff the center, but with deep state budget cuts, officials are looking for areas they can eliminate without affecting the classes students need to graduate.

"I have no problem asking for the community's help especially in these budget times," FAU trustee Armand Grossman said. "Where should the university cut? Education programs? Nursing programs?"

Specific budget cut recommendations are expected later this month, but South Florida congressmen sent a letter to FAU President Frank Brogan on Monday asking him to keep the center open.

Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, has also asked FAU officials to consider the importance of the center to the people of South Florida, and said he will work to raise money for the center if necessary.

Hasner also has supported the Florida-Israel Institute at FAU, which had received $200,000 from the state in 2006 at his request. This year, Hasner's request for $385,000 for the institute was denied completely, leaving its future also in question.

The institute's mission is to develop research, economic, cultural, educational and social ties between Florida and Israel. It is co-sponsored by Broward Community College.

"Palm Beach and Broward counties are probably some of the most Jewish on Earth," said interim co-director of the institute Zvi Roth, who is also an FAU professor. "We're trying to see what kind of activities we could still do in a survival mode operation."

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