Rome Fox has been associated with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for 25 years. (photo from vhec.org)
Rome Fox has retired as assistant director of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. She was recognized at the VHEC annual general meeting Oct. 20 by being named a Life Fellow of the organization.
Fox has been associated with the VHEC for a quarter-century, first as a volunteer, as a member of the board of directors and the executive committee and as co-chair of the annual Yom Hashoah commemorative event. Joining the centre’s staff as a part-time volunteer coordinator, Fox went on to serve as program coordinator, interim education coordinator and acting executive director, while also taking the lead on annual commemorative events.
In her remarks at the AGM, Fox reflected on the people she has met and worked with, emphasizing the Holocaust survivors.
“It has been life-changing and very fulfilling to participate in the growth of such an important and dynamic museum dedicated to Holocaust education and remembrance,” she said. “I’m truly honoured, fortunate and privileged to work with you, our remarkable and resilient Holocaust survivor community, and I cherish the lessons I’ve learned from you. You made a difference not only in my life but in the lives of thousands and thousands of B.C. students, teachers, citizens and government officials.”
Fox also expressed pride at the changes in the organization and the innovative projects, campaigns and commemorative events with which she has been involved.
She said she treasures her relationships with the three executive directors with whom she has served – Nina Krieger, Frieda Miller and Roberta Kremer – and the meaningful work they have done.
“Every day, when you’re working there, you know you’re making a difference somehow, someway,” she told the Independent. “Somebody’s life is being touched. When you hear the remarks of students of the impact of survivors or when they take a workshop, the questions that they ask, you know that kids are starting to get this stuff.”
Both of Fox’s late parents, Sarah and Al Rozenberg, were Holocaust survivors from Poland. Her mother was in the Warsaw Ghetto and worked in a munitions factory. Ultimately, Sarah was sent to Majdanek, while her entire family was sent to Treblinka and murdered. Many of Sarah Rozenberg’s artifacts are in the VHEC’s permanent collections.
Fox knows less about her father’s story, but he was mostly on the run and helping people as they tried to escape Nazi-occupied Poland.
The couple met in a displaced persons camp and moved to Edmonton, where Rome was born.
In a moving testimonial video shared at the annual general meeting, staff, volunteers and survivors paid tribute to Fox.
Robert Krell, founding president of the VHEC, spoke of “the strength you bring to the centre and the comfort and compassion to our survivors through your own personal understanding of our nature and our struggles.”
Frieda Miller, past executive director, said: “If an organization can be said to have a heart, you were that heart. As daughters of survivor parents, we shared that unique bond, one that I think also uniquely equipped us for our work at the centre. But, Rome, what I want you to know is that your contributions were not just valuable but truly fundamental to the VHEC’s remarkable achievements of over a quarter of a century.”
Lillian Boraks-Nemetz, a Holocaust survivor, said: “I read somewhere that the sturdiest pillars of human morality are compassion and a sense of justice. In all my interactions with you, I have experienced both. In your work at VHEC, you have been supportive and encouraging, you understood what it means to be a survivor of the Holocaust and have helped to guide us in many ways.”
Wendy Bross Stuart and Ron Stuart, who worked with Fox on the musical components of countless commemorative events, thanked her for years of achievements.
“She’s approachable, kind, competent, committed – she’s got the whole package,” Ron Stuart said. “I think you can get some of those qualities in other individuals but to get the whole package is quite unique.”
Krieger, the current executive director of the VHEC, spoke of the absence Fox’s retirement will leave.
“Although it is nearly impossible for us to imagine the centre without Rome as an integral part of our team, I know that we will continue to ask ourselves: What would Rome do?”