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Remembering Rochester philanthropist Sheila Konar

US Holocaust Memorial Museum

A well–known local philanthropist is being remembered for her devotion to the Rochester community, and to supporting education about the Holocaust.

Sheila Konar died last Saturday at the age of 87. Konar and her late husband Bill, were leaders of the William and Sheila Konar Foundation which donated to numerous local causes, but was also instrumental in the founding of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Bill Konar was a Holocaust survivor. The CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of Greater Rochester, Meredith Dragon, said that Sheila Konar shared her husband’s passion for educating people about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

“One of the things that she really felt very strongly about is ensuring that people understood the evils of anti-Semitism and what it meant and how important it is today to understand that hate gone awry can look like the Holocaust,” said Dragon.

Dragon said that one of the Rochester-based philanthropic efforts that Sheila Konar was especially interested in was literacy, and helping provide resources for reading programs for Rochester area kids.

“Making sure that kids know how to read and the importance of reading and being able to use reading to learn. So there were significant funds invested in the school system and literacy programs and projects because she wanted to help make sure that every child in Rochester not only had a great education but appreciated and loved reading,” Dragon said.

Jed Silberg is the National Philanthropy Officer for the Holocaust Museum. He said that Sheila Konar and her husband were devoted to its mission.

“Since the beginning of that Sheila was a steadfast supporter, even after Bill passed away, really helping to fund the museum’s education work, the work that we do to combat anti Semitism, both here and abroad,” said Silberg.

In 2019, the Konar Foundation awarded a $6.2 million gift to support the Holocaust Museum’s initiative on Holocaust denial and state-sponsored anti-Semitism.

Silberg said that gift, “was not one that every philanthropist would make. There are lots of organizations in the organized Jewish community and larger community that work on the topic and the ideas of combating anti-Semitism. Ours is specifically looking at combating anti-Semitism in the lands where the Holocaust happened.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.