JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sunday marks a big day for Jewish Family & Community Services. The agency is celebrating 100 years of service with a new headquarters on Jacksonville’s Southside. It’s also home to northeast Florida’s first Holocaust Memorial.
“We are so excited. We worked so hard for this moment,” said the agency’s executive director, Colleen Rodriguez. “We’ve designed this building out of respect for the clients that we serve, and it has a flow to it that’s going to make sense when people come through our doors.”
The new building, located at 8540 Baycenter Road, allows more space for services like adoptions and counseling, but the most notable addition is the Holocaust Memorial Gallery near the entrance.
Pictures on the wall feature a dozen survivors and their families living in the community. An etched granite wall shows a map of Europe and the number of lives lost in each area. It’s especially meaningful because it’s designed by Holocaust survivor, Morris Bendit.
“This is something like saying it’s written in stone. This will hopefully remain for many generations to explain in details what happened,” Bendit said.
Bendit was only a baby when he and his family were sent to a concentration camp. It’s where he says most of his immediate family died.
“We were transported by cattle cars to a province called Transnistria. It was a 60,000 square mile designated for the annihilation of Jews,” he said.
Bendit was four when he and his mother were liberated. The now 76-year-old spent years sharing his life story but hopes the community can learn about what happened from a different perspective.
“I would like them to read the info by the images what it represents so they’ll understand the history of the past,” he said.
The gallery is free and open to the public weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about JFCS and its services, click here.