By Harriet P. Gross
A local Holocaust hero is about to become a local area Hometown Hero as well! Next Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., Clarice Tinsley, a Fox News (Channel 4) anchor, will “anoint” Mike Jacobs on her Hometown Heroes feature telecast.
I call Mike a Holocaust hero because of the immense amount of essential education he’s been providing to many people in many places for well over six decades, to make sure that “Never Again!” means exactly what it says. The forthcoming broadcast should spread these words even farther.
Mike has been speaking out as a survivor since 1956. He was the driving force behind the 1984 opening of Dallas’ Holocaust Memorial Center in the lower level of the Jewish Community Center. In more recent years, it has operated from rented quarters downtown; now it’s the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, with broadened mission and focus. As such, it’s enlarged both the size and makeup of its visiting audiences (which now include many walk-ins in addition to its primarily being a pre-planned group destination) and achieved greater recognition through its proximity to important local sites (it’s very close to the spot of the John F. Kennedy assassination and the closely-related Sixth Floor Museum, and has plans to build a large permanent home in that area).
If you don’t know Mike, you should. He’s going on 85 now, but still retains the stamina that was built into him by soccer and other sports in his native Poland, strength that helped him survive the camps and their horrors when no others of his once-large family did. He came here after the war, became a physical education instructor at the JCC and there met the local native he later married — Ginger Chesnick Jacobs, a founder of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society.
Ginger was the caring, careful editor of her husband’s book, “Holocaust Survivor: Mike Jacobs’ Triumph over Tragedy.” First published in 2001, this first-person autobiography/memoir is now in its eleventh printing. It and Ginger accompany Mike on all his speaking engagements, which are many and varied. He’s appeared countless times before groups at the local Center, but he’s also always glad to go anywhere, anytime he’s asked, to tell his riveting story. He’s talked to small assemblies; he’s stood before crowds as large as 2,500. He’s spoken in a couple of foreign countries, including South Africa, and in several American states, including Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Jersey.
Just this past week, Mike and Ginger were in Dodge City, Kan., for a Sunday evening appearance at a Baptist church followed by a Monday morning middle-school talk. For these, the Jacobses flew to Wichita, where a couple of teachers from Dodge came to meet them — driving 2-1/2 hours to do so!
Mike reaches some 18 to 20 thousand people each year with his story, which he’s also told at Dachau and Terezin, in Yugoslavia, and in Konin, Poland, where he was born. There he spoke in the town library that today occupies the restored synagogue in which he worshiped with his family before the Shoah — on the balcony that was once the women’s gallery. He’s made at least 10 return trips over the years, and on one of them located his birth certificate and those of all his loved ones who once lived there.
Mike’s also made many trips to Israel, beginning in the late ‘70s, leading several Jewish Federation missions. All the Jacobs children — Mark, Andy, Reuben and Debbie — and grandchildren — Rivka, Leeza, Sara and Aviva — have visited Israel, Konin and the camps with Mike and Ginger. They share family love and have dug deeply into its history: Mark, like his mother, is a past president of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, and this year Rivka, Debbie’s oldest daughter, becomes a new member of the DJHS board of directors.
Now, here’s information on Mike as a “Hometown Hero” on this brief, weekly Fox News feature. Channel 4 filmed him as he was speaking to students yesterday afternoon at Staley Middle School in Frisco. You can view the segment’s first TV airing at 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday, May 12, and/or again at noon the following day, Thursday, May 13. You’ll even be able to film this on TIVO or DVR, and it will also be posted on the channel’s Web site, www.myfoxdfw.com, for at least three months after the initial showing. Anticipate a short-but-mighty clip, the way all the Fox honorees are featured. Enjoy! And appreciate our Holocaust Hometown Hero!