WEST TERRE HAUTE —
A CANDLES celebration glowed in a star’s light, as a boy from Brooklyn visited Terre Haute on behalf of a Polish girl.
O’Shaughnessy Hall at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was full Saturday evening, as movie star Elliott Gould spoke at the 7th Annual Fall Reception of CANDLES Holocaust Museum. Before the reception started, the star of hits from “M*A*S*H” to “Oceans 13” said he was happy to honor the work of museum founder and holocaust survivor Eva Kor.
“Eva is amazing,” Gould said outside the hall. Cameras had been flashing in his direction for some time as those in attendance stood by his side for photos. But the man once named by Time Magazine as “a star for an uptight age” lauded Kor’s significance while brushing off mentions of his own fame. “She is one of the greatest people I’ve ever met.”
Since Kor founded the museum in 1995, the organization has tripled in size. Her story has been told in books, movies and television. The Jewish girl who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp said Saturday she never imagined a life like she has today.
“My life has always been a struggle, this is true,” she said from the podium. And yet, despite her age, she feels better now than ever — something she attributes to her learning to forgive.
That message of forgiveness is incredibly powerful, said Gould.
“It’s more than just a message. You really have to go pretty deep into it. It goes to the human condition,” he said. And that kind of idea could ultimately disarm the planet and bring about world peace. “If it’s ever possible, it’s generations to come. If we’re still even here then.”
Gould was raised in Brooklyn, the only child of a Jewish family. But over the course of half a century on screen and stage, his name has been among the biggest in Hollywood, even if he tries to shrug it off the stardom.
“My take on celebrity is some of us have to make a bigger fool of ourselves than others. That’s my take on celebrity,” he said earlier in the evening.
A favorite role is impossible to name, but Gould said his work on the movie “M*A*S*H” was probably his best known, although younger generations know him from the television series “Friends” and “Oceans 11” movie series.
“I wanted at one point to make a sequel to ‘M*A*S*H’ and set it in the Middle East,” he chuckled in reference to the satirical saga of an Army medical unit stationed in Korea.
One way or the other, he’s sure to be doing something though as he explained his passion for work.
“I’m a worker and that’s my choice to be a worker,” he said, explaining that he considers himself a part of the crew that happens to be in front of the camera.
Ego, he said, is an aspect of fear and ultimately toxic. It’s something he tries to avoid.
Education, on the other hand, is something to embrace.
“This is about education,” he said of CANDLES, pointing out that some people in the world actually deny that the Jewish holocaust of World War II occurred.
Other people deny global warming while others deny evolution, science and ultimately education, he said.
“One of our problems, as a species, is that we think we’re better than all the others,” he said. “And it’s just not true.”
In the meantime, Gould said he plans to enjoy a brunch at SMWC today before leaving town. And while all places are ultimately the same to him, he said Terre Haute seems a good place to be.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org