Exhibit Encourages Compassion
By Evan Brenner
St. Petersburg-Tuvia, Aseal and Zus Bielski provided a safe haven for thousands of Jews in the woods of Belarus after their town was ravaged during the Holocaust.
Now, more than 70 years later, their story is featured in an exhibit that has encouraged children to speak out against injustice in their own neighborhoods.
Students from the Wildwood Recreation Center visited the Florida Holocaust Museum as part of the Paris Project, named for drive-by shooting victim Paris Whitehead Hamilton.
“It was a rude awakening that this kind of thing happened, but when they (the students) saw what happened in the Holocaust, they kind of related it to some of the violence they’ve encountered in their own neighborhoods,” said Paul Morrison, recreation supervisor at the center.
Brendon Rennert, grandson of Tuvia Belski had been lending his time at the museum when he joined his family in the Belarusian woods for the filming “Defiance,” a movie based on the efforts of the brothers.
As soon as Rennert returned to the U.S., he wanted to widen the reach of the story.
“Over 10,000 people are alive today because of what the brothers did,” said museum curator Erin Blankenship.
Rennert explored his options with Blankenship and developed the exhibit seen today. A major goal of the exhibit was to raise awareness with younger generations about the Holocaust.
“The students write incredible letters, and it’s changed some of these kids’ lives,” Rennert said.