Hands Against Hate Rally with the Sarasota Youth Opera.

To commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Butterflies of Hope & Remembrance Project is bringing a profound series of  lectures and events to the Sarasota-Manatee area. The year-long project will include school curriculum, traveling exhibits, renowned guest speakers, film screenings, book readings and art projects all pertaining to Holocaust history and remembering the lives tragically lost. Its goal is to provide education and awareness for the next generation to resist all forms of hate, discrimination and persecution in our world. 

With anti-Semitism on a global rise, project founder Bette Zaret saw a need for drastic change. She called upon her 40-plus years of domestic and international experience in strategic brand marketing to inform the project's mission, and her compassion for the cause has been leading her since.  "I want to shine a light on the hate agenda," says Zaret. She hopes to encourage the community to remember the past, and in turn become upstanding citizens who fight for what is right, no matter the political climate.

The project's name was inspired by a poem titled The Butterfly Poem by Pavel Friedman, which was excavated from the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942. Within the emotional prose, the butterfly is a symbol of hope, rebirth and freedom that Holocaust prisoners desperately sought. The symbol also embodies the sentiments Zaret wishes to share with her community. 

Several religious and secular organizations have partnered with the project, among them the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, Temple Beth Shalom, the Sarasota Ministerial Association and the school systems and libraries of Sarasota and Manatee counties. The Selby Public Library also will serve as a venue for lectures predominantly led by art historian and media psychologist, Dr. Andre Krauss.

A series of teacher training programs at the Florida Holocaust Museum kicked off the project in August 2019.  School teachers were trained on how to teach Holocaust history to students through the perspective of the Righteous Among the Nations, a group of non-Jewish allies who helped rescue, hide and liberate Jewish people during Hitler's reign. By honoring the righteous' bravery, students will learn the value of standing up for others and determine historical fact from fiction, a growing issue with countries rewriting history books in efforts to dampen the Holocaust's effects. 

Upcoming events include a screening of the realistic movie Denial, based on Deborah Lipstadt's book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier at the Selby Library Feb. 11, and lecture by Lipstadt at the Municipal Auditorium Feb. 25. 

A ceremony called Hands Against Hate will take place at many of the scheduled events. "As a community, we will join hands together and pledge to stand up against all forms of hatred," Zaret says. "It's about all religions, races and backgrounds coming together and striving to live in safety and peace."

Jewish Chorale President Ronnie Riceburg, left, and Butterflies of Hope founder Bette Zaret, right. 

"Everybody is a good person deep down. We are all humans deserving of love and acceptance," she says. "This [project] is the right thing to do at the right time."

The Butterflies of Hope and Remembrance Project will continue until December 2020.  For a list of upcoming events, visit www.butterfliesofhopesrq.com.