Update on Recent Developments

Wyman Institute Update: November 17, 2003

    1. Welcome to the two newest members of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council:

      Janis Ian, singer and songwriter, has been a star since the age of 15, when her extraordinary song about racism and conformity, “Society’s Child,” topped the charts and created a storm of public discussion that featured her on The Tonight Show and in Life, Look, Time, and Newsweek. Her 1967 debut album earned her the first of nine Grammy nominations. Ian’s 1970s albums included ‘Stars,’ with the hit song “Jesse,” and ‘Between the Lines’, featuring “At Seventeen,” which propelled her to superstardom, sold more than one million copies, and won two Grammy awards. She has also contributed scores or title tunes to numerous films and television shows.

      During the early 1980s, Ian studied ballet with Dora Krannig of the Royal Ballet, and acting with Stella Adler. (Note: Stella’s daughter, Ellen Adler, is a member of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council, and the Wyman Institute has been designated as the repository for documents pertaining to Stella Adler’s involvement in the Bergson group’s campaign to rescue Jews from the Holocaust.)

      Ian’s 1993 album ‘Breaking Silence’, which was nominated for a Grammy as Best Folk Album, dealt with subjects ranging from domestic violence to the Holocaust. Her deeply moving song “Tattoo,” about a prisoner in a Nazi death camp, was chosen to represent Holland in the festivities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Her most recent recordings are the double live CD ‘Working Without a Net,’ and ‘Billie’s Bones,’ her 18th studio album, which includes a duet with Dolly Parton. She also contributed to the recently-published anthology of short stories, ‘Stars: Stories Based on the Lyrics of Janis Ian,’ edited by Michael Resnick.

      Mark Jay Mirsky is the editor of Fiction, an international magazine of stories and excerpts of novels, and is the former director of Jewish Studies at City College and of its M.A. program.

      He co-edited ‘Rabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives from Classical Hebrew Literature’ (1998) for the Yale Judaica series and edited (in 1999) the diaries of Robert Musil, the writer considered by many European intellectuals to be the peer of Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust, who was hounded first from Berlin and then Vienna by the Nazis. Mirsky’s most recent book, ‘Dante, Eros and Kabbalah,’ published this year by Syracuse University Press, has been praised by Cynthia Ozick as “a masterpiece,” and by Barbara Solomon as “a work of stunning originality.” Mirsky is presently at work on the Pinsk Yizkor histories, the first of which is to be published by Stanford University Press next year.

      He has served on the boards of many prominent institutions, including Fiction, Inc. (whose board he chaired), the Edge Foundation, the William Alfred Foundation, the Chaim and Mimi Gross Foundation, the National Jewish Book Awards, and the Eldridge Street Project.

    2. The controversy over the 1938 Homes & Gardens article glamorizing Hitler concluded with the magazine’s publisher, IPC Media (the largest British media corporation) issuing a statement saying that it “completely understands the concerns voiced by the Wyman Institute regarding sympathetic coverage of Hitler and the Nazi regime prior to the onset of World War Two.”IPC said it is “appalled” that Homes & Gardens published the article, which, IPC acknowledged, was essentially “Nazi propaganda.”

      Moreover, IPC assigned its own researchers to examine the matter further, and announced that they have “uncovered a similar article, written by the same author, in an issue of Country Life magazine [also owned by IPC] dated March 28, 1936. We make this information known because the material is clearly of serious historical interest.” The IPC statement also declared that IPC will no longer deny “permission for reproduction of this article.” It withdrew its previous claim that copyright laws prevented others from distributing copies of the article. The full original text of the article remains posted on the Wyman Institute’s web site, www.WymanInstitute.org

      The IPC statement, which was issued after extensive discussions with the Wyman Institute, has established an important precedent by demonstrating the need for the media to reexamine how they covered the Hitler era.

      The Wyman Institute is now preparing a curriculum unit based on the Homes & Gardens controversy, which will be distributed to high school and college instructors. The curriculum materials will focus on the lessons to be learned from media coverage of Hitler and the Holocaust, questions of journalistic responsibility, and the importance of governments, corporations, and other institutions facing up to their ugly pasts and acknowledging the wrongs they committed during the Nazi era.

      The Homes & Gardens episode is already being used as a case study of journalistic irresponsibility, in a graduate journalism course taught at Northeastern University by Prof. Laurel Leff. Professor Leff, a member of the Wyman Institute’s Academic Council, is the author of a book about the New York Times’s coverage of the Holocaust, which will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2004.

    3. Thane Rosenbaum, novelist and member of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council, authored an op-ed in the New York Times on November 8, 2003, concerning the controversy over the construction of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin and the notion of forgiveness for present-day German companies that played a role in the genocide process.

    4. Alan L. Berger, Raddock Eminent Scholar Chair of Holocaust Studies at Florida Atlantic University and member of the Wyman Institute’s Academic Council, lectured on “The Cross at Auschwitz: What can be learned for Contemporary Catholic-Jewish Dialogue?” at Rollins College on October 30, 2003, and on “The Moral Minority: Altruism, Rescue and the Human Condition: Lessons from the Holocaust,” at Boston College on November 6, 2003.

    5. Reminder: “They Looked Away,” the powerful new documentary about the Allies’ failure to bomb Auschwitz, will be screened at the University of Judaism, in Los Angeles, on November 19, 2003, at 7:30 pm, in the Gindi Auditorium, under the auspices of the university’s Sigi Ziering Institute. There the discussion will be led by the film’s director and co-producer, Stuart Erdheim, who is a member of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council. For more information: 310-440-1222 or <agreenberg@uj.edu>To arrange for a screening of “They Looked Away” in your community, please contact Prof. Miller at: pmiller@mcdaniel.edu

    6. Reminder: David S. Wyman will speak on “A Race Against Death: Peter Bergson, America, and the Holocaust,” on November 23, 2003, at 3:00 p.m., at the Jewish Center for Community Services, 4200 Park Ave., Bridgeport, CT. For more information, call: 203-372-6567.

    7. An article by Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff, concerning the world’s response to the Kristallnacht pogrom, appeared in Jewish newspapers in New York, Hartford, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and elsewhere. See: http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/editletcontent.php3?artid=3089