Mark Talisman

Cleveland native Mark Talisman is looking forward to being a part of honoring Holocaust survivors in his hometown.

Talisman, president of the Project Judaica Foundation based in Washington, D.C., will be the featured speaker at a community breakfast at 10 a.m. July 20 at Oheb Zedek-Cedar Sinai Synagogue in Lyndhurst.

It’s part of a two-day series of events at which the synagogue’s 22 members who are Holocaust survivors will be recognized. A special Shabbat service in the survivors’ honor will be at 9 a.m. July 19.

“There will be a lot of reminiscing about the great stories of the Holocaust and the survivors and the present condition of survivors,” Talisman said in a telephone interview from a beach in Delaware.

“It will be warm and wonderful. It’s really vital to have this kind of talk at this stage in my life and theirs.”

Talisman, 72, said he has been invited to speak at many synagogues in Greater Cleveland over the years to report on “what was going on in Washington.”

“It’s a homecoming in a way, but I have not been there in several years due to illness,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in that synagogue and others in Cleveland. I have so many friends in Cleveland.”

Talisman, of Chevy Chase, Md., formed the Project Judaica Foundation with his wife, Jill, in 1983 and has been its president ever since. He said it stages world-class exhibitions with Judaic themes around the world.

“The first exhibition we did was the Precious Legacy collection of artifacts collected by the Nazis during World War II,” he said. “It was done in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution from 1983 to 1986.

“Then we did the Scrolls from the Dead Sea exhibit in partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority. We’ve done a total of 18 exhibits so far.”

Jill Talisman, also a Cleveland native, serves as secretary of the foundation.

“The major problem was there was not a sufficient number of exhibits with Judaic themes,” he said. “I had opportunities to explore all aspects of Judaic culture, and I took advantage of it.

“The majority of people who come and visit these exhibits are not Jewish, so it’s doubly important.”

From 1963 to 1975, Talisman served as chief of staff to former U.S. Rep. Charles Vanik, a longtime Democratic congressman from Cleveland. In 1975, Talisman created the Washington Action Office for the Council of Jewish Federations of North America and served as its director for 18 years.

In 1980, Talisman was appointed founding vice chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council by President Jimmy Carter, who appointed renowned author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel as chairman. The 60-member council was established to lead the nation in commemorating the Holocaust and to raise private funds for and build the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which opened in 1993.

Talisman continues to serve on the museum’s committee on conscience and to work with the Claims Conference on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

“I have done a lot of public speaking over the years and have taught at various universities around the world on democracy and congressional presidential relations,” he said.

A graduate of John Adams High School in Cleveland, Talisman earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. While growing up, he and his family were members of Temple Emanu El, then in University Heights and now in Orange.

Talisman said his grandfather, Rabbi Simon Talisman, founded five small synagogues in Cleveland that ended up being merged, and he also founded The Schvitz in Cleveland.

WHAT: Oheb Zedek-Cedar Sinai Synagogue will honor members who are Holocaust survivors

WHO: Mark Talisman, president of the Project Judaica Foundation, will be featured speaker

WHEN: July 19 and July 20

WHERE: Oheb Zedek-Cedar Sinai Synagogue, 23749 Cedar Road in Lyndhurst

SCHEDULE: At 9 a.m. July 19, there will be a special Shabbat service in honor of the survivors, followed by a kiddush lunch. At 10 a.m. July 20, Talisman will speak at a community breakfast.

COST: Both events are free and open to the community.

INFO: 216-382-6566 or

How do you feel about this article?

Choose from the options below.