Frances Segelman – known for her sculptures of the Royal Family, eminent personalities and Holocaust survivors – was commissioned to live to sculpt Marina at the 24th Anniversary of the Holocaust Centre in recognition of her role as its co-founder and matriarch, making it a home for survivors and a place where they could remember their loved ones. The sculpting took place with an audience of the ‘family of survivors’ Marina had nurtured for more than two decades. Segelman’s finished work was unveiled at the Centre’s 26th anniversary in 2021.… Read the rest
‘Retirement’ was never really a word in Marina’s lexicon, however, and she didn’t slow her work rate for a moment. Every day of every week, she would be hosting visiting survivor speakers, writing and responding to an endless flow of correspondence from supporters and associates of the Holocaust Centre, and providing love, wisdom, prayer, hugs and afternoon tea to all comers who beat a path to her door, whether great or humble, of any faith or none. Her ability to understand, deeply connect with and care about people on an individual basis was legendary.… Read the rest
At the turn of the year, she was recognised in the Queen’s 2005 New Year’s Honours List with an MBE for her services to Holocaust and genocide remembrance and education, and later that year she stepped down from her formal role at the Centre after ten years full-time service.
“What were we praying for? Freedom for the oppressed. Beth Shalom is their place, not our place now. It belongs to the World,” Marina said in an interview at the time. “If you were to ask me what image summed up the past ten years, I wouldn’t be able to tell you, because you’re all a part of it.… Read the rest
When her sons launched the Aegis Trust for Genocide Prevention in 2000, Marina was whole-heartedly behind them – and the family of survivors and peace-builders who regard her as a mother widened once again. She would welcome, with hugs and afternoon tea, such guests as the Rwandan officials who commissioned Aegis to establish the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda at a site where 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide lie buried.… Read the rest
In September 1995, The Holocaust Centre, Beth Shalom, opened its doors for the first time. Marina was its CEO and Education Director, but she was also much more than that. Described by Kindertransport Bob Rosner as “the engine in the boiler room keeping everything going”, she was in a sense the spiritual mother of the place, who made this House of Peace home for survivors. The warmth of her greeting for all visitors was famous.
“Our first impression will always be how you came towards us with outstretched arms, ready to embrace us, your smiling face radiating love and friendship,” Holocaust survivors Val and Ibi Ginsburg recalled on Marina’s 70th birthday.… Read the rest
Stephen pursued these questions through high school studies and then a degree in theology. Shortly after her sons went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Marina and Eddie travelled with them to sites of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. It was shortly after that the development of Beth Shalom as the UK National Holocaust Centre was conceived.… Read the rest
In 1981, Marina, Eddie and their sons visited Israel to experience the Holy Land. Not as part of a package tour, but exploring Israel in their own way. Expecting to reinforce their existing Christian convictions, what they rather came away with was a better understanding of Judaism, together with some challenging questions about the Christian world’s conflicted relationship with it.… Read the rest
“It all started with a cup of water,” recalled Hongji Yang. “I was walking together with three friends through oil-seed flowered fields one evening … upon approaching Beth Shalom, I knocked at the door asking for a cup of water. With a smile, out came Marina Smith. My friends and I had recently arrived from China and were not used to the hospitality we were about to receive. We were welcomed in, and that day turned out to be an education and friendship of many years …”… Read the rest
Back in the UK, Beth Shalom was a hive of activity, full of life. Marina led retreats for a wide range of people including churches, individuals, young people and international students. And people who quite literally stumbled upon Beth Shalom became friends for life.
Marina reads one of her favourite Psalms – Psalm 46 in 1984… Read the rest
In 1980, aged 46, Marina was asked to assist a Christian community which included a choice, school and medical facility in Andhra Pradesh, India, the home of her birth. She supported the Ebenezer Church and its programs for a number of years and visited India many times.… Read the rest
With no idea where they were going to do this, they took a leap of faith, gave up the security of the Methodist church, and started looking for a suitable property to buy. The most suitable one was the only one they could afford – a derelict ten-bedroom farmhouse which they purchased for just £25,000.
‘I remember clearly the discussion that revolved around the naming of this new place,’ Stephen recalls in ‘Making Memory’ ‘Various ideas were discussed that would appeal to what would be a largely Christian clientele… But one option developed which was Hebrew in origin: “Shalom … peace, or … why not House of Peace?”… Read the rest
Then, in 1978 Marina and Eddie made the momentous decision to give up their roles in the Methodist Church and start something new from scratch; a conference and retreat centre for people from all walks of the Christian life to reflect on what their faith should mean in practical terms within society.… Read the rest
By 1960, aged 26, Marina was a teacher at Sedgehill Comprehensive in London – one of the first Comprehensives in the country. Three years later she moved to Derbyshire, becoming Head of Religious Education at Spondon Park Grammar School. It was here in Derbyshire that she met Eddie, then the minister at Ilkeston Methodist Chapel. Her car had a flat tyre and she went into the church office to call for roadside assistance. Much to her delight, the Minister had a collection of books she could borrow. … Read the rest
At 14, Marina moved to England and attended Chislehurst Grammar School. By 18, she was at Southlands Teacher Training College, Wimbledon. Her first teaching post was at Gallions Mount Primary School, Plumstead, where Marina energetically engaged in everything from music and the production of school plays to Sunday School, youth work and the choir in her local church.… Read the rest