Holocaust survivor ousted from Holocaust museum

Posted at 4:07 PM, Jun 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-06 16:07:52-04

Richmond, VA (WTVR) — The sudden resignation of one of the three founding members of the Virginia Holocaust Museum has several people in the community shocked and outraged.

Jay Ipson, 77, said it was not his decision to step down as Executive Director of the museum. Ipson also said he was told to clear out all his personal belongings last week, even though he was promised he would be allowed to keep an office back in April.

“I was hoping to retire on my own,” Ipson said. “When I could no longer carry myself.”

Ipson, a Holocaust survivor himself, said he’s found solace in educating others about the atrocities suffered by Jewish people during the Hitler’s reign.

Nearly 60,000 visitors a year have come through the museum since its dedication in 2003, many have met Ipson personally.

“I’m extremely proud,” Ipson said. “Nowhere in my wildest dreams, did I expect for our museum to have the impact it does.”

Ipson said he believed his departure was tied to a letter he wrote in the museum’s newsletter back in March. In it he criticized insurance companies for denying claims sought by Holocaust survivors.

Ipson said some believed he was blaming Ambassador and current board member, Randolph Bell, for adverse treatment of Holocaust survivor claims by the International Commission on Holocaust Era Claims. 

Ipson said his intention was solely to help the 50,000 Holocaust survivors living below the poverty line.

Museum board chairman Marcus Weinstein would not comment on Ipson’s allegations.

Incoming director Simon Sibelman was quick to praise Ipson’s contributions over the years and even said he was the inspiration behind a new exhibit on worldwide genocide.

“He gave us an incredible foundation on which to build and how to move forward,” said Sibelman.

Ipson said he just hopes the board will reconsider.

“This museum was not built for the privilege of one or two members of the board, it was built for the community,” Ipson said.