Nearing his 92nd birthday, Summerlin resident Ben Lesser is a true hero, not just for his impressive age, but for his personal story of perseverance and triumph. Born in Krakow, Poland, Ben and his family are victims of the Holocaust. Only Ben ultimately survived after enduring five hellish years: four concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau, two death marches and two death trains.
After liberation from Dachau as a teenager, Ben slowly healed, eventually recovering physically from his near-death experience. At age 18, penniless, uneducated and unable to speak English, he made his way to New York City, and two years later to Los Angeles, where he ultimately succeeded in living the American Dream as a Realtor with two successful real estate offices: Ben Lesser & Associates.
He and wife, Jean, just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary and have been blessed with two daughters, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Ben and Jean’s move to Summerlin 25 years ago, was the beginning of his second career as a volunteer and advocate to keep alive the memory of the six million people who lost their lives in the Holocaust.
In fact, it wasn’t until 1995 that Ben first spoke of his experience as a Holocaust survivor. He was invited by his grandson, Adam, to share his personal story with Adam’s classmates. That single experience was the beginning of Ben’s renewed commitment not to let the lives lost ever be forgotten. Since then, he has dedicated his life to preserving their memory via his foundation, ZACHOR Holocaust Remembrance Foundation (zachorfoundation.org) which preserves the memory of the Holocaust by providing educational tools for school curriculums.
Ben went on to write a book about his life, “Living a Life that Matters, From Nazi Nightmare to American Dream,” and most recently has been working on his Zachor Holocaust Curriculum – the first-ever curriculum fully developed and facilitated by a living Holocaust survivor. It will be released next month and is available for free to school districts, teachers, students and anyone interested in learning about the Holocaust. It includes Ben’s StoryFile, an interactive, artificial intelligence tool that will allow future generations to “talk” to Ben, even after he passes.
Not content to rest on his laurels, Ben’s foundation is ever evolving for our current world by expanding its educational programs to promote global tolerance. I-SHOUT-OUT.org is today an anti-hate, anti-bullying campaign powered by ZACHOR that strives to put an end to intolerance.
Decades before Ben and Jean moved to Summerlin in 1995, the couple frequently traveled to Las Vegas to visit friends, and along the way, they started to acquire property. The couple believes Summerlin is the perfect place to live with its fresh air and immediate access to Red Rock Canyon – a place Ben considers “paradise.”
While they have called the community home for 25 years, they are still continuing to invest in the area. Talk about the American Dream! Even into their 90s, this couple continues to inspire us all!