State helps Wiesenthal Center purchase new building

LOS ANGELES — In a major expansion, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has purchased a three-story building to house its tolerance-teaching programs for law enforcement officers, teachers, students and corporate workers.

The $6.6 million facility lies directly across the street from the center's Museum of Tolerance.

At a brief ceremony last week, the California Arts Council, a state agency, presented an oversized check for $2.5 million to Rabbi Meyer May, the center's executive director, as the state's contribution toward the building purchase.

Participants in the Tools for Tolerance and Steps to Tolerance program are exposed to the hands-on multimedia learning center, exhibits on the Holocaust and other genocides, as well as workshops on racism and bigotry.

A total of 20,000 police officers and sheriff's deputies and 7,000 educators have graduated from the programs so far. During the last school year, 6,000 students from 117 public and private schools also participated.

As the most diverse state in the country, where public school students hail from 140 nations and speak 105 languages, California should be the leader in lifelong tolerance education, said art council director Barbara Pieper.

The Wiesenthal Center will match the $2.5 million state grant; the remaining cost will be covered by renting out the building's street-level space.

Previous to the current grant, the center had received $11 million in state support.

Tom Tugend

JTA Los Angeles correspondent