From organizing the Yom Hashoah program in Lorain to speaking at various Lorain County schools and churches about the Holocaust and disseminating copies of Elie Wiesel’s book “Night,” Arnie Milner spends a lot of time during his retirement educating others.
He is also president of his temple, Agudath B’nai Israel Synagogue in Lorain, and helps lead Shabbat services with religious director Mark Jaffe.
CJN: Why is Holocaust education important to you?
Milner: I would say that, as Jews, we’re taught to always remember our past. Similarly, like Passover, even though it happened thousands of years ago, we are taught to never forget that we were once slaves. And for me, just as importantly, only 80 years ago, half of our people were brutally murdered for being Jews. I thought it was important to remember them and make sure it never happens again by way of education.
CJN: What is your favorite part of organizing all of these educational opportunities?
Milner: My favorite part is all the people I get to meet. I see all these great people and that never ends. It’s a lot of clergy and students. And so, for two or three months before the Yom Hashoah program, I go to a church every Sunday and they let me announce the program. I meet a lot of great people there, too.
Even last year, I called an imam in Lorain and asked if he would light a candle at the program.
All those people, to me, are the hope for humanity. They are the good over evil, those that make sure love triumphs over hate.
CJN: What inspired you to volunteer in the first place?
Milner: I don’t know how it all began after I retired. I was always involved in my synagogue, but after I retired, I started working on a Holocaust education and remembrance program.
I am good friends with the last living survivor in Lorain, Erwin Froman. I get together with him every Thursday, and he has taught me so much. All that time together has been so valuable. It’s become a huge program and a huge part of me. It’s a passion of mine.
There were also a lot of Holocaust survivors in my temple growing up and they all became like family to me. That is also one of my inspirations. (Holocaust education) has always been part of my life.
CJN: What does community involvement mean to you?
Milner: The main thing is getting together with all these people from all walks of life. When we meet each other and work on different things together, you find this commonality that is so much greater than you could’ve ever imagined.
It eases so many misconceptions on both sides, no matter if someone is Jewish or not. It’s great to meet all these people. You’re basically working for the greater good, together.
CJN: Do you have a favorite volunteering memory?
Milner: I have two. Last year, I heard about a teacher in New London, Ohio, and she was teaching a program at her high school. Her name was Misty, and we met for lunch to explain my Holocaust program. I meet her, and we started talking. She said to me, “even though we live in an area where there is very little diversity, it doesn’t mean we don’t care.” That stuck with me.
Another memory was last year at our program, I was standing next to Rabbi Lauren Werber of Temple B’nai Abraham and Father Frank P. Kosem of St. Jude Church. I asked if they knew each other and they said no. I thought that was funny because they were so close to each other spatially. They then wondered why they hadn’t connected before to do something together, and decided they would. It’s stuff like that I love.
Looking ahead, Milner already started planning the May 2019 Yom Hashoah program.
“I’m putting so much work into it already,” he said. “I’m excited to be educating the non-Jewish community.”
Milner doesn’t plan on stopping his community involvement any time soon.
“I’m planning, for as long as I can, to do what I’m doing,” he said. “It keeps evolving. I feel like I’m a man on a mission. I know I’m getting older, so it’s like I’m running a marathon against time. I want young people attending the programs to see their problems are never as bad as they seem and that they can overcome that.
“I have a lot of work to do.”