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Illinois mobile museum educates students on racism, hate, and intolerance

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- (WEEK) — A new mobile museum stopped in Springfield this week to teach students, school staff and lawmakers about racism, hate, and intolerance.

Midwest region director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Alison Pure-Slovin, said they started the project back in 2018.

She said it’s been an extraordinary journey for the center to build the mobile museum, especially during a pandemic.

“There are no busses like this in the United States and we’re very proud that Illinois is the first state to create this educational facility,” Pure-Slovin said.

The bus is touring cities in Illinois to showcase stories from the civil rights movement to the Holocaust.

Since March, the mobile museum has stopped at 12 school districts educating over 2,000 students.

Pure-Slovin said after teaching a group of students about Anne Frank, one 7th grader raised his hand and asked, “What is a Jew?”

She told the boy he was brave for asking in front of other classmates.

“Then I looked at him and said, ‘I’m Jewish,'” Pure-Slovin said. “His eyes went wide and I said to him, you look at me and think I’m a white woman. That’s my skin color, we go deeper than that as human beings.”

“Children aren’t born hating, they’re taught to hate.”

The bus costs $1 million to run the operation annually.

Pure-Slovin said it wouldn’t have happened without the help of donors.

Sandy and Karen Teplitzky have been working with the Midwest Simon Wiesenthal Center for years saying it became a passion of theirs to make sure the museum came to life in Illinois.

“We believe that children aren’t born hating. They’re taught to hate,” Sandy said. “If you can bring something like this experience to the students, give them a safe space to talk about these issues, you’d be amazed at how open the students are to learn and discuss it.”

The two became interested in creating the bus after they took a trip to Canada and toured a mobile museum. They said they believe creating the bus in the United States can educate people especially after the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

“We want people to not be bystanders, we want them to be up-standers,” Sandy said. “Whether it’s Jan. 6 in Washington or other events throughout our country, if people will stand up and speak out when they see something that’s wrong, if we can have that little bit of an impact on people, this would be a great success.”

Illinois lawmakers were invited to tour the museum throughout the day Wednesday. They also held a special event for lawmakers later Wednesday night.

The bus heads to Macomb after leaving Springfield. Then, this new experience will head to St. Louis in hopes of teaching more students, staff, and legislators.

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Ali Rasper

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