Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies – Muskegon

Huffington Post Senior Editor to Discuss Immigration, Refugees on Nov. 9

Nick Baumann

Refugees and the issues surrounding immigration and displaced persons will be the focus when Nick Baumann, Senior Enterprise Editor at The Huffington Post and grandchild of WWII Era refugees, tells his story in Muskegon on Thursday, Nov. 9, at Muskegon Community College’s Sturrus Technology Center, 388 W. Clay in downtown Muskegon.

The event, sponsored by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies – Muskegon, begins at 6:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. For more information, contact David Klemm, MAISD Social Studies and Special Projects Coordinator, at (231) 767-7255 or

Baumann has written pieces for Washington Monthly, The Atlantic, Slate and Commonweal.  He also has blogged for The Economist and was a Senior Editor at Mother Jones Magazine.

When he writes or speaks about refugees however, it’s personal.

“Our Grandparents died when we were young,” Baumann wrote, along with his sister Rachel, in a piece earlier this year in The Huffington Post.  “We think about them a lot these days – and the people who chose to help them and the people who chose not to.”

Baumann will be interviewed by George Maniates, MCC History Instructor and Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies-Muskegon Board Member. The evening promises to help the community understand the experiences of refugees, while at the same time grappling with the tough issues of immigration and border security policy using other historical experiences as a lens for viewing current issues.

The mission of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies – Muskegon is to cultivate the values which diffuse hate and encourage diversity.

Benefit Performances of ‘I Never Saw Another Butterfly’ on Nov. 4 at MCC

I Never Saw Another Butterfly posterHonoring the life and legacy of a young Muskegon woman who died 10 years ago, a Holocaust play focusing on Jewish children in a WW II concentration camp will be staged on Saturday, Nov. 4, at Muskegon Community College.

Playwright Celeste Raspanti’s one-act memory drama “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” will have performances at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in Overbrook Theater on the MCC campus. The show is being presented by MCC and The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Performances will be followed by conversations with the cast and artistic staff.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and go on sale Monday, Oct. 30, at the Overbrook Theater Box Office. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. through Friday, Nov. 3. The Box Office will open an hour-and-a-half before each Nov. 4 performance. Reservations can be made by calling (231) 777-0324.

“I Never Saw Another Butterfly is set in the 1940s in the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, what is now the Czech Republic.

Raspanti adapted her play from Czech author Hana Volavkova’s 1994 book of the same title, a collection of poems and drawings by Jewish children who lived in Terezin. Told primarily from the point of view of a real-life Terezin survivor, a teenaged girl named Raja Englanderova, the play recounts the harsh conditions in the camp; the fears, courage and resilience of the people confined there; and the eventual transportation of prisoners from Terezin to the infamous Auschwitz death camp.

More than 15,000 children passed through Terezin. About 100 were still alive when Soviet Army troops liberated the camp in 1945.

“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” was first performed locally 20 years ago, at Mona Shores High School, for International Holocaust Remembrance Week.

Starring as Raja was Shores student Gilana Alpert, daughter of Rabbi Alan and Anna Alpert. After high school, Gilana Alpert returned to Muskegon to direct “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” as part of her Indiana University graduate studies.

Gilana Alpert accidentally died in 2007. She was 26 years old. The current “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” will raise money for Gilana’s Fund, a nonprofit organization run by the Alpert family through the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. Gilana’s Fund is dedicated to educational programming that promotes acceptance and understanding.

The current “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” production is being co-directed by Anna Alpert and Lynn Frisinger. In 1997, Frisinger directed the Mona Shores production in which Gilana Alpert starred.

“Gilana was a force,” Frisinger said. “She was a gifted, bright, joyful, compassionate young woman, and made the play special.”

Frisinger said that, last fall, she and Anna Alpert talked about the increasing incidents of violence and vandalism against Muslim mosques, Jewish cemeteries and Christian churches.

“Anna and I had a discussion that ended up with this project,” Frisinger said. “It is time to bring back this play, to remember and celebrate Gilana, and to remember what we promised never to forget.”

The cast of “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” is mostly made up of Muskegon County high and middle school students.

Starring as Raja is Holly Lynn Persicke, a 17-year-old senior at North Muskegon High School. Other student actors include Tiffany Bartlett, Destiny Lafayette Love, Kayden Michael Cilla, Bella Rae Resterhouse, Rachel Grace Stein, Grant Kowaleski, Riley Ann McEvoy, Martaven De’Shaun Hardy, Olivia Ward, Jolecia Monae Andrews, Kiona Porchia, Cardia Lawton, Antalayia Elaine Seals-Williams and Charles L. Hardy.

Adults in the cast include retired teacher Barbara Kolen, attorney Joshua Stewart EldenBrady, Muskegon County Commissioner Bob Scolnik, and West Michigan actor and playwright Bill Iddings. Musical direction for “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” is by Elizabeth Jackson.

For more information on the event, contact The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies-Muskegon at



Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies – Muskegon

Mailing address:
PO Box 452
Muskegon MI 49440



Pastor Christopher Anderson
Retired Chairperson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Mr. David Klemm
Vice Chair
Muskegon Area Intermediate School District 

Ms. Sarah Woycehoski
Fruitport Schools
Administrative Secretary 

Rabbi Alan Alpert
Congregation B’nai Israe

Ms. Trynette Lottie-Harps
Muskegon Community College 

Ms. Anna Alpert
Congregation B’nai Israel

About Us

In 1995 a Service of Commemoration was held at Samuel Lutheran Church in the city of Muskegon. Pastor Chris Anderson and Rabbi Alan Alpert gathered in the small Worship Center with 12 people in attendance. The service commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the liberation of the only remaining death camp, Auschwitz, and the many concentration camps spread throughout northern Europe and the murder of six million Jews and five million others because they were Slavs, Roma and Sinti, or their religious or political beliefs or their sexual orientation. The service also commemorated Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was murdered by the Nazis at Flossenburg prison on April 9, 1945 for his participation the attempt to assassinate Hitler.

It has been a remarkable 20 years bringing primary witnesses to the Holocaust, individuals who lived in Europe and were part of the Hitler Youth, scholars in Holocaust studies. Various organizations have shared their gifts of music: the Cammerata Singers under the direction of Floyd Farmer; the Muskegon Chamber Choir under the direction of David Wikman; area high school and middle school choirs and instrumental groups from Reeths-Puffer, North Muskegon, Mona Shores, Muskegon High School and a diverse group of individuals.

In an effort to provide for this organization’s work into the future, a partnership was forged with Muskegon Community College and the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. We moved from being the Shoah Remembrance Committee of Muskegon to the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies–Muskegon, whose mission is: cultivating values to diffuse hate and encourage diversity.

The Center will provide opportunities to the Muskegon Community which result in:

  • Education: The Muskegon Community learns, thinks critically and applies lessons learned from the Holocaust and genocide
  • Commemoration: The Muskegon Community remembers and reflects upon the victims of the Holocaust and genocide
  • Perpetuation: The Muskegon Community recognizes the ongoing importance of educating and commemorating beyond the immediacy of the victims of the Holocaust and genocide.

On June 11, 2015 the committee finalized the By-Laws and established its first board.