New York Philanthropist Ethel LeFrak to Receive Seton Hill University Honor
Seton Hill and the University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education (NCCHE), will present Ethel LeFrak of New York, N.Y., with the second Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Woman of Courage Award. The Award will be presented during a noon luncheon on Wednesday, October 28, at the Duquesne Club, 325 Sixth Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Nobel Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel commented on Ethel LeFrak’s life’s work, “You have done so much for so many people of different faiths that all of us, your friends, rejoice in this very merited recognition.”
Seton Hill president JoAnne Boyle noted, “Ethel LeFrak is a cherished friend of Seton Hill. As an esteemed supporter of education, she embraces efforts to better the lives of others. Indeed, the impact of Ethel LeFrak’s service, hospitality, and philanthropy transcends geographic boundaries as it reaches across cultures and touches our common humanity.”
“For more than a decade Ethel LeFrak has taken a keen interest in the work of the Seton Hill University National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education,” added Sr. Gemma Del Duca, S.C., founder and co-director of the NCCHE in Israel. “Her desire to support the educational work of the NCCHE helps Seton Hill counter antisemitism and foster Catholic-Jewish relations by making the fruits of Holocaust scholarship accessible to educators at every level.”
“Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton worked to improve the lives of the oppressed in New York and abroad,” said Sr. Lois Sculco, S.C., vice president for Mission and Student Life and NCCHE administrator. She noted, “Like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Ethel LeFrak, with quiet grace and courage, has brought comfort, inspiration, and hope to many in New York, in Greensburg, in Israel, and in our global community. We are grateful for her lifelong commitment to the work of the NCCHE and her noble efforts to foster friendship, peace and reconciliation among people of different backgrounds.”
In 2008, Ethel LeFrak presented the Seton Hill University National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education with a munificent gift to endow The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference and create The Ethel LeFrak Student Scholars of the Holocaust Fund.
Michele Ridge, chair of the Seton Hill University Board of Trustees commented, “The National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education at Seton Hill University provides a model for teaching the Holocaust and for building relations with the Jewish and Christian communities, certainly, all religious groups. We deeply value the tremendous devotion of Ethel LeFrak. She has ensured that the life-changing work of our Center continues in perpetuity.”
The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference seeks to enhance Catholic-Jewish understanding by educating the educators. The Conference will equip teachers and faculty members, especially those at Catholic institutions, to enter into serious discussions on the causes of antisemitism and the Holocaust, and to write and deliver papers that shape appropriate curricular responses at Catholic institutions and other educational sites. The 2009 Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference will be held at Seton Hill University October 25-27.
The Ethel LeFrak Student Scholars Fund provides annual scholarships to support Seton Hill student participate in the Summer Institute at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Remembrance Authority in Israel; The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference; the Genocide and Holocaust Studies Program at Seton Hill; and activities relating to international travel, Jewish-Catholic traditions, and readings and research to advance understanding of significant Holocaust issues past and present.
The Ethel LeFrak Outstanding Student Scholar of the Holocaust Award, in the amount of $1,000, will be presented annually to the Seton Hill student who writes a reflection paper that best demonstrates a keen and advanced understanding of the lessons of the Holocaust or another specific act of genocide.
A graduate and trustee of Barnard College, Ethel LeFrak has been active as a trustee or member of the board of directors for many cultural, philanthropic, educational and medical institutions, including serving as a trustee of the Cardozo Law School, vice president of the Little Orchestra Society, trustee of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, trustee of the Albert Einstein Medical College, and patron of the Asia Society.
A member of the Metropolitan Opera’s “Golden Horseshoe” and “Opera Club,” Ethel LeFrak also has been a patron of Lincoln Center, a conservator of the New York Public Library, a member of the Council of the Salk Institute, and a member of the Board of the United Nations International Hospitality Committee, which was instrumental in having her and her husband, the late Dr. Samuel J. LeFrak, honored with the United Nations’ “Distinguished Citizens of the World” Award in 1994.
Among the many institutions recognizing the philanthropic generosity of the Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Foundation are the Guggenheim Museum of the City of New York; Temple Emmanu-El on New York’s Fifth Avenue; Queens College, where the program “Violins Not Violence” offers scholarships to musically talented but deprived children; the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.; the Pratt Institute; Barnard College; and the American Museum of Natural History of New York.
Ethel LeFrak also made a major gift to the Albert Einstein College of Yeshiva University.
In 1996, Ethel LeFrak was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Seton Hill. In 1998, Marymount Manhattan College also presented her with an honorary degree.
The Woman of Courage Award recognizes a woman, who, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, demonstrates in action what she believes in spirit, accomplishes the extraordinary through ordinary work; and encounters adversity with grace. The first Woman of Courage Award was presented to Azar Nafisi. Nafisi, visiting professor and the director of the School of Advanced International Studies Dialogue Project at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., is the best-selling author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books” which electrified its readers with a compassionate and often harrowing portrait of the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it affected one university professor and her students.
The National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education (NCCHE) was established on the campus of Seton Hill University in 1987. Seton Hill initiated this national Catholic movement toward Holocaust studies in response to the urging of Pope John Paul II to recognize the significance of the Shoah, the Holocaust, and to "promote the necessary historical and religious studies on this event which concerns the whole of humanity today." The NCCHE has as its primary purpose the broad dissemination of scholarship on the root causes of antisemitism, its relation to the Holocaust, and the implications from the Catholic perspective of both for today's world. Toward this end the Center is committed to equipping scholars, especially those at Catholic institutions, to enter into serious discussion on the causes of antisemitism and the Holocaust; shaping appropriate curricular responses at Catholic institutions and other educational sites; sustaining Seton Hill's Catholic Institute for Holocaust Studies in Israel through a cooperative program with Yad Vashem, the Isaac Jacob Institute for Religious Law, and Hebrew University; encouraging scholarship and research through conferences, publications, workshops for educators, and similar activities; sponsoring local events on the Holocaust and related topics in the University and the community, and enhancing Catholic-Jewish relations.