Artist’s rendering of the new JFCS Holocaust Center exhibit space. (Photo/Courtesy JFCS)
Artist’s rendering of the new JFCS Holocaust Center exhibit space. (Photo/Courtesy JFCS)

Jewish Family and Children’s Services kicks off $45M drive to expand S.F. Holocaust Center

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

San Francisco’s Holocaust Center opened in 1979 as an anguished response to neo-Nazis setting up a bookstore across from Congregation B’nai Emunah in the Sunset District.

Nearly 45 years later, the now-esteemed Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center is planning its largest expansion yet.

JFCS recently announced a campaign to raise $45 million to raze and rebuild the center and to dramatically expand its mission of Holocaust and genocide education.

Plans for a 15,000-square-foot, four-story building at 2245 Post St. in Lower Pacific Heights  include a library for 20,000 books, a “museum-quality” exhibit space for the public, and archival storage for artifacts, memorabilia, images and 2,000 oral histories. The building will also hold a boardroom and meeting rooms. The center expects to serve 20,000 students annually and become a hub for conferences, exhibits and research.

Stacy Rackusin, JFCS deputy director of development, calls the campaign a “once-in-a-century project.”

“This new Holocaust Center building will enable us to serve more schools, students, teachers and community members across Northern California as we work to combat antisemitism across the state,” Rackusin said.

The plans for expansion come as antisemitic incidents have spiked in California and across the country, which Rackusin said reinforces the importance of its work.

The Holocaust Center has grown in other ways as well. It is part of the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education, which was formed in 2021 and began meeting this spring. The council’s co-chair is JFCS executive director Anita Friedman.

The council is working alongside the California Teachers Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Education, which is providing teachers in the state’s public schools with educational materials. This month, it is hosting its first-ever Summer Institute for California Teachers.

“We know that students who receive this type of education report higher levels of empathy, a deeper understanding of the Jewish community, and are more likely to stand up to instances of hate that they see,” Rackusin said. “So this work is critical to fighting antisemitism today and for generations to come.”