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Seton Hill National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education to Host Virtual Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference November 7 to 10

Seton Hill University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education will host the triennial Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference in a virtual format from November 7 to November 10, 2021. Registration for the conference, which features 11 educational sessions, is available here. The cost for the conference is $35 and includes access to all live sessions plus the ability to watch session recordings at a later date.  

The theme for this year’s conference is “Holocaust Education Today: Confronting Extremism, Hate and Denial.” The keynote speaker is Amy-Jill Levine, Ph.D., the Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford Seminary and author of Sermon on the Mount: A Beginner’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven.

“As we live in times of rising nationalism, ideological extremism, and violence towards ethnic and religious minorities, we are reminded that these elements were present in the political culture of Nazi Germany,” said Mary C. Finger, Seton Hill University president. “The 2021 Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference will examine the period between the world wars and compare it to today in an effort to consider in what ways and to what degree the fascism of the mid-20th Century can provide a template for understanding and confronting extremism today.”

“The mission of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education is to teach about the Holocaust and to apply its lessons to today,” said James Paharik, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology at Seton Hill University and Director of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education. “One of these lessons is that interreligious understanding is absolutely essential in creating a more tolerant and peaceful society. For that reason, in addition to sessions focusing on the history of the Holocaust and the politics of the present, the conference will feature several sessions focused on interreligious understanding.”

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 conference is made possible by the late Ethel LeFrak. In 2008, LeFrak, a noted New York philanthropist, made a generous donation to Seton Hill University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education to endow The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference and create The Ethel LeFrak Student Scholars of the Holocaust Fund. 

Sessions at the 2021 Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference include:

Day 1: Sunday, November 7 

2 p.m.: Conference Welcome and Presentation of the LeFrak Award, featuring Sister Maureen O’Brien, Vice President for Mission and Identity at Seton Hill; President Mary Finger; Francine LeFrak, daughter of the late Ethel LeFrak; and James Paharik, Director of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education. 

3 p.m.: Keynote Address, Dr. Amy-Jill Levine: Jesus’ Beatitudes in His Time and Ours

Amy-Jill Levine, Ph.D., is Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford Seminary and University Professor of New Testament Studies, Emerita, Mary Jane Werthan Chair of Jewish Studies, Emerita, and University Professor of Jewish Studies, Emerita at Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Levine’s books include: The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus and Short Stories by Jesus; The Gospel of Luke (with Ben Witherington III — the first Bible commentary by a Jew and an Evangelical); and The Jewish Annotated New Testament (co-edited with Marc Brettler).  Her most recent publications include The Bible with and Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently (with Marc Brettler); Sermon on the Mount: A Beginner’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven; and The Difficult Words of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to His Most Perplexing Sayings. The first Jew to teach the New Testament at Rome’s Pontifical Biblical Institute, she was in 2021 elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  AJ describes herself as a Yankee Jewish feminist, an unorthodox member of an Orthodox synagogue, and an academic who understands the Bible as a rock on which to stand rather than as a rock thrown to do damage.

Day 2: Monday, November 8

11 a.m.: Lessons from the Holocaust: Understanding the Dynamics of Hate Crime and White Supremacy in the Contemporary U.S.

Featured speaker: Dr Alex Alvaraz, professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northern Arizona University.

3 p.m.: Antisemitism Before and After World War II

Speakers: Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Director, International Programs, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, presenting “Forgive us our Sins? Vatican Perceptions of Holocaust War Crimes Postwar.”

Beth Griech-Polelle, Kurt Meyer Chair of Holocaust Studies, Pacific Lutheran University, presenting “The Long History of Antisemitism: Myths, Legends and Tropes about Jews.”

Bradley W. Hart, Associate Professor at California State University Fresno, presenting, “Hitler’s American Friends.”

7 p.m.: Advancing Holocaust Studies: Words Have Power 

Panelists: Dr. Carol Rittner, RSM, Distinguished Professor of Holocaust & Genocide Studies Emerita and the Dr. Marsha Raticoff Grossman Professor of Holocaust Studies Emerita at Stockton University.

John Roth, Edward J. Sexton Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights (now the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights) at Claremont McKenna College. 

Robert P. Ericksen, the Kurt Mayer Chair of Holocaust Studies Emeritus at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. 

Day 3 - Tuesday, Nov. 9

11 a.m.: Fascism and Myth 

Speakers: Eric Kurlander, Professor of History at Stetson University, presenting “The Political Mythology of Nazism.”

Adam Enders, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville, presenting “Down the Rabbit Hole? An Examination of Conspiracy Beliefs Over Time.”

3:00 p.m.: Transnational Ethnonationalism between 1918 and 1945: The Role of Religion

Panelists: Dr. Victoria J. Barnett, retired Director of the Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Dr. Rebecca Carter-Chand, Director, Programs on Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Kevin Spicer, C.S.C., the James J. Kenneally Distinguished Professor of History and Dean of the May School of Arts and Sciences at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.

7 p.m.: Kristallnacht Commemoration

The annual interfaith remembrance service will focus on the screening of a new oral history video of Pittsburgh Holocaust survivor Albert Farhy, produced by the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, as part of the Eva Flesichner Oral History Project. The project was funded through the generosity of Hans and Leslie Fleischner, the brother and sister-in-law of noted Holocaust scholar Eva Fleischner.

Day 4 – Wednesday, November 10

11 a.m.: Genocide and Crisis in the Muslim World

Speakers: Georgette Bennett, Founder of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, presenting “The Syrian Crisis – Fear, Hate, and Caring for the Stranger.”

Dr. Mehnaz Afridi, Professor of Religious Studies and of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College, presenting “Wounded Muslims: Genocide of Uyghurs and Rohingya Today.”

3 p.m.: Pedagogical Session: Rethinking the Death Marches and the End of Nazi Terror 

A panel discussion based on documents in the Harry B. Knights Collection, an exhibit focusing on images taken by Harry Knights during his time in the U.S. Army during World War II, including of the Nazi massacre at Gardelgen.

Panelists: John Spurlock, Professor of History, Emeritus, at Seton Hill University

Sarah Johnson, Seton Hill University alumnus, who assisted in the Harry B. Knights Collection project as a historian on death marches and the Gardelegen atrocity.

Jared Krol, a current Seton Hill University student, who was a member of the student team that developed the Harry Knights Collection.

7 p.m.: Closing Presentation: The Call to Unity in a Fractured World

Speaker: Father Walter Kedjierski, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, who will base his presentation on Fratelli Tutti, the 2020 Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis. Father Kedjierski will be introduced by Bishop Larry J. Kulick of the Diocese of Greensburg.