Holocaust Center Receives $250,000 Grant

Photo by Nicole Williams

The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Ramapo has undergone a name change after receiving a five year $250,000 challenge grant from the Gayle and Paul Gross Foundation.  Consequently, the center has been renamed the Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

The Gross family has been involved with the Center for many years prior to giving this grant, according to Michael Riff, the director of the Center. Laura Gross, Paul and Gayle Gross’s daughter, formerly served as a trustee for the Center and eventually became Vice Chair of the Center’s advisory board.

“The Gross family has been involved in the Center at least since 1996 or '97…One day I believe Mr. Gross approached me and said that he was interested in the Center and possibly his daughter was interested…Paul, Gayle and Lauren Gross, and other members of the family, have attended our events and are crucial to our fundraising,” said Riff.

According to the Jewish Standard, the Gayle and Paul Gross Foundation “supports Jewish organizations and causes in the arts, human services and education.”

Fittingly, the former Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, a part of the Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies, focuses its programming on educating students about past and current atrocities and genocides in the effort to “promote an understanding of the pernicious consequences of anti-Semitism, racism, ethnic hatred, other forms of bigotry and violations of human rights; and forge awareness, changed attitudes and new methodologies for the protection of individual liberty and the prevention of genocide,” according to the Center’s website.

The Jewish Standard reports that the Gross family decided to give the grant to the Center after one of its main donors passed away. With the funding from this donor lost, Paul Gross decided to offer the challenge grant. Challenge grants are unique, as they require the recipient to meet certain goals set by the foundation giving the grant. Riff explained that initially Paul Gross met with him and Stephen Rice, the dean of the Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies, to talk about the future of the Center.

“It came about initially through a series of inquiries about our activities and our fundraising,” Riff said. “We did not know where all of this would lead…We had an open-ended conversation in which Paul Gross asked us questions and also gave us some advice as to where we should be heading. A couple of weeks later we received an email offering us the gift; it sort of hit us and it came out of the blue in a sense.”

After the grant was given, the Board of Trustees approved the name switch, adding Gross’s name to the Center’s title. This grant will provide financial security for the Center and funding for future programming, according to Riff.

“We’re trying to be as cost conscious as possible, but our aim remains to provide solid co-curricular programming to the students of Ramapo College, as well as reach out to the wider community,” said Riff.

A big part of the Center’s programming is teaching workshops, put on to educate instructors on how to teach about holocaust and genocide studies. These workshops, along with programming for the Ramapo community, will be aided by this grant.

“We are very happy that this has come to pass. We value our relationship with the Gross family. We feel that this is a validation of our efforts to date,” Riff said. “We hope that this will spur further development of our funding base and then the Center will continue to exist well into the future.”