Sr. Gemma Del Duca of Seton Hill U. First Non-Israeli to Receive Yad Vashem Excellence in Holocaust Education Award
Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl commented, “It is a great pleasure to salute Sister Gemma Del Duca, S.C. of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education as she receives the Yad Vashem Excellence in Holocaust Education Award. The Center and Sister Gemma Del Duca do more than educate. They have become in themselves symbols of the effort to help others, and in a special way Catholics, to recognize the unique character of the Holocaust and how it helps define Jewish-Catholic relations.”
“I congratulate Sister Gemma of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education for receiving this prestigious award that honors teaching excellence in a subject that is extremely difficult, yet so important, to pass on to future generations,” said Greensburg, Pennsylvania Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt. “The efforts of Sister Gemma and the Center have enabled educators and students from Catholic schools in the diocese to participate in programs at Seton Hill and at concentration camps in Europe. A meaningful testimonial to the importance of their work came from one teacher who, after visiting the death camps, said the experience gave her the compassion and desire to pass on not only the facts and stories of the Holocaust, but a lesson in the necessity for respecting the sacredness of all human life at whatever stage from conception to natural death.”
“Gemma has been my role model and hero for teaching the Holocaust, and for building relations with the Christian community and all religious groups,” said Dr. Edie B. Naveh, Director, Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh.
Those present at the ceremony will include Mr. Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, and Professor Yuli Tamir, Israeli Minister of Education. Other special invited guests will include Seton Hill University President Dr. JoAnne Boyle; Sr. Lois Sculco, Seton Hill University vice president for Mission and Student Life and administrator of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education (NCCHE); Wilda Kaylor, associate director of the NCCHE; Ms. Toni G. Verstandig, Senior Policy Advisor at the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation; Rabbi Sara Perman, leader of the Congregation Emanu-El Israel in Greensburg, Pennsylvania; Rev. Michael B. McGarry, CSP Rector, Tantur Ecumenical Institute for Theological Studies in Jerusalem; and Seton Hill University’s Catholic Institute for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem 2007 participants: Dr. Shirley Campbell, Seton Hill University assistant professor; Sharon Glueck, Lake Stevens Middle School, Florida; Erin Lorenz, Farquhar Middle School, Maryland; Jeanette Parmigiani, Holocaust Remembrance Commission, Maryland; Amy Porch, Chattahoochee Valley Community College, Alabama; Zuzanna Radzik, student at Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Warsaw, Poland; Stephen Shapiro, College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts; Linda Short, Pennsylvania State University; and Louis Vigneault, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
Sister Gemma Del Duca, S.C., Ph.D., who along with Sister Mary Noel Kernan, S.C., Ph.D. co-founded Seton Hill University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, serves as the Center’s Co-director in Israel where she directs the Center’s Catholic Institute for Holocaust Studies. Sister Gemma also serves as the Administrator of the Isaac Jacob Institute for Religious Law in Jerusalem. Sister Gemma has a Ph.D. in Ibero-American Studies from the University of New Mexico, a Masters of Sacred Sciences in theology from the Pontifical Institute, Regina Mundi, Rome, Italy, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Seton Hill University. Prior to her work in Israel, Sister Gemma served as an associate professor of history and chaired the history department at Seton Hill University. She also worked in Campus Ministry at the University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, and Wesleyan College. In 1975, following the teaching of the Church in efforts to promote dialogue, Sister Gemma began to work in Israel at Tel Gamaliel, a community for Jewish-Catholic dialogue under the direction of Father Isaac Jacob, O.S.B. During a return visit to the United States in 1987, she approached Seton Hill University President Dr. JoAnne Boyle with the idea for a Catholic Center for Holocaust Studies. The National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education was the result. The University honored Sister Gemma with its highest award, the Elizabeth Seton Medal, in 1998. State of Israel Bonds awarded Sister Gemma two awards in 2000, The Elie Wiesel Holocaust Remembrance Medal, and The New Life Award, for her leadership in preserving Holocaust remembrance. On October 14, 2002, the United Jewish Federation Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh presented Sister Gemma with their “Spirit of Anne Frank Award” in recognition of her work as a Holocaust educator. Sister Gemma is a member of the congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.
Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by an act of the Israeli Knesset. Since its inception, Yad Vashem has been entrusted with documenting the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust period, preserving the memory and story of each of the six million victims, and imparting the legacy of the Holocaust for generations to come through its archives, library, school, museums and recognition and commemoration events. More information on Yad Vashem can be found at www.yadvashem.org.
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 anti-Semitism, 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 anti-Semitism 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.