Tolerance Week

Virtual: April 26-April 30, 2021

How It All Began

In 2005, author, respected psychiatrist and Iowa native, Dr. Denis Donovan, was commissioned by the government of Denmark to interview Danish Holocaust survivors living in Florida. In doing so, Dr. Donovan met Philip Gans, an Auschwitz and Death March survivor. Phillip told Denis he needed help raising funds for a computer, projector, and screen so he could tell his story to schoolchildren before he passed away. Denis called his long-time friend, Sioux City native, Jerry Weiner, and he agreed to fund Phil's project, entitled "Erase the Hate''. Philip asked Jerry if they could meet at the Holocaust Museum In St. Petersburg, Florida. At the initial meeting, Jerry spent hours listening to Phil tell his incredible, emotionally-moving story of survival. Jerry was so moved he asked Phil how he could support Phill in sharing "Erase the Hate'' with young people. Jerry pledged his support despite having no knowledge or experience in bringing something such as this to life.

That same weekend, Jerry and his wife, Kathy, happened upon an exceptional documentary, Paper Clips, the powerful, true story of 8th graders in a small Tennessee town learning about the Holocaust. Jerry and Kathy, together realized every young person needed to see that film.  They reached out to the Lindblades, nationally recognized video and photography experts and fellow Iowans. Knowing that Lou Ann Lindblade was a former well-respected teacher, Jerry asked if the Lindblades could reach out to the Sioux City School System to put together a program where 8th graders in the Sioux Land area would get to see Paper Clips, and then be able to meet and hear Phil himself share his story.

The first Tolerance Week had over one thousand people attend, and Phil, for the next ten years, was able to continue to share his story to some fifty thousand children in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Phil's message, Erase the Hate, was a powerful, first-hand, real-world experience of the dangers of bullying and hatred, and why racism must stop, as well as how to stand up to it and make a difference.  In honor of this service, Phil was awarded an Honorary Degree from Morningside College in Sioux City. Philip Gans passed away in October of 2019 knowing his efforts across so many Tolerance Weeks, had made a difference.

Now in its 17th year, along with its week-long, community-wide offerings, Tolerance Week sends two teachers yearly to Chattanooga, Tennessee to attend the Paper Clips workshop as a way to continue to honor Phill by learning for themselves how to best employ the Paper Clips movie and its message of tolerance, in their classrooms. This documentary remains a must-see.

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