Following the recent racist and anti-Semitic vandalism at the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise, the community responded swiftly and generously.
Among those who responded is the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, a nonprofit organization based in New York City.
When it heard about the vandalism, it offered to bring at no cost to Boise its play “Letters from Anne and Martin,” featuring the writings from Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr., to help start a community dialogue on how one should react to hateful speech and actions.
“So how are we going to counter the hate?” asked Dan Prinzing, director of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, which is the builder of and home of the Idaho memorial.
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“We are going to counter it with words that inspire,” he said. “Where the tagging was racist and anti-Semitic, tonight we bring Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. to the stage with their words of inspiration. That is how we are going to continue to confront in our community.”
More than 100 people attended the free event Wednesday evening at the Boise State Special Events Center.
Two of the play’s attendees, Boise High School juniors Ella Ernst and Ana Rowe, said they were shocked to learn about the vandalism in the town where they grew up.
“I did not understand why someone … would go at it with such hate,” said Ernst. “That was a different point of view that I have not experienced before living in Boise.”
“This a major thing that Boise is going through,” she said. “We usually are a pretty mild city. So something like this has been a big shock.”
But not everyone was surprised by the vandalism.
“The climate in the country in the last 10 years has turned back toward nationalism and racism,” said Eric Gironda, who has lived in Boise for 20 years.
Prinzing said he has watched the community “turn a tragedy into triumph.”
“Two weeks ago hate walked into the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial,” said Prinzing. “It came under the cover of darkness. It came in the form of words. Words that were both vile and vicious. They were words that attacked members of our community. The question is how does one react when confronted with hate?”
The community reacted by offering support and donations, including two $20,000 gifts.
“We will repair. We will replace. And we will expand the memorial with the addition of the Marilyn Shuler classroom for human rights,” Prinzing said.
“We recognized that one single act that targeted the memorial is not us,” he said. “It is not our community. We are actually defined by the overwhelming support that has come about after the act occurred.”