Wyman Institute Update: October 11, 2005

I.     Activities

The Wyman Institute’s third national conference, “American and the Holocaust: Politics, Art, History,” was an unparalleled success.  More than two hundred participants filled the McNally Auditorium at the Fordham University School of Law on September 18 for the event.  Conference highlights:

*  Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch chaired a panel unveiling new research on Fiorello La Guardia’s response to the Holocaust, with presentations by Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff, LaGuardia biographer Prof. Thomas Kessner and Dr. Rochelle Saidel, who is editing the memoirs of La Guardia’s sister Gemma.

*  The attendees viewed a film interview with former U.S. Senator and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, discussing his World War II bombing missions near Auschwitz.

* The conference honored U.S. journalist Varian Fry and diplomat Hiram Bingham IV, who helped more than 2,000 refugees escape from Vichy France.  Fry’s widow, Annette; Bingham’s son, Connecticut attorney William Bingham; and Dr. Bella Chagall Meyer, grand-daughter of painter Marc Chagall, who was rescued by Fry and Bingham met for the first time.  They were joined by Academy Award winning actor William Hurt, who spoke about his starring role in the dramatic film “Varian’s War.”

*  Prof. David S. Wyman spoke about the writing of his best-seller The Abandonment of the Jews, and former U.S. Congressman Stephen Solarz chaired a panel of scholars discussing the book’s impact, on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary.  U.S. ambassador John R. Miller revealed in a statement to the conference that he had used Wyman’s book to convince then-Vice President George H. W. Bush to order the U.S. airlift of rescue of 900 Ethiopian Jewish refugees in 1985.  Noted criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman spoke about how the pioneering Soviet Jewry activism of his uncle, the late Morris Brafman, was influenced by the lessons of the Holocaust.  The discussants included Dr. Racelle Weiman of Hebrew Union College’s Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, and Prof. Leonard Swidler, editor of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies.

Prof. Thane Rosenbaum of the Fordham University School of Law, the prominent legal scholar, award-winning novelist, and public affairs commentator, was the emcee of the conference.

For detailed coverage of the conference, please visit our web site, www.WymanInstitute.org

The latest issue of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies,  guest edited by Dr. Weiman and Dr. Medoff, is devoted entirely to studying the impact of The Abandonment of the Jews and the issues it raised. It features essays on the influence of Wyman’s work; an exchange between Wyman and Catholic leader Dr. Eugene Fisher, on the response of U.S. Catholic leaders to news of the Nazi genocide; a memoir by the noted Jewish leader and scholar, Prof. Arthur Hertzberg, on his participation in the 1943 rabbis’ march in Washington; a symposium by an array of scholars and public figures, reflecting on how The Abandonment of the Jews influenced them personally–including Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, journalist Marvin Kalb, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon, and Prof. Blanche Wiesen Cook, biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt; and new research on U.S. press coverage of the Holocaust; the political activism of Ben Hecht; and American Jewish responses to the Holocaust.  (To order copies of the journal, please visit www.Wyman Institute.org and click on the journal cover shown in the upper right hand corner of the screen.)

II.     The Wyman Institute in the News

A lengthy article about the Wyman Institute’s conference at Fordham was published in the New York Sun on September 13 … A recent Entertainment Weekly article about actress Jodie Foster noted the Wyman Institute’s criticism of Foster for praising Nazi propaganda filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl … An op-ed by Rafael Medoff, concerning early U.S. efforts to prosecute Nazi war criminals, was published in the Baltimore Sun and the Jerusalem Post in September …  A letter by Medoff and Arts & Letters Council member Adam Kubert (of Marvel Comics), concerning the artist and activist Arthur Szyk, appeared recently in Jewish newspapers in New Jersey and Minnesota … Bill Bingham, son of Holocaust rescuer Hiram Bingham IV, was interviewed on Zev Brenner’s Talkline Radio, concerning his participation in the Wyman Institute’s national conference.

III.     News About Wyman Institute Committee and Council Members:

Academic Council member Prof. Gershon Greenberg (American University) spoke at the Conference on Central and East European Jews at the Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity (in Vilnius, April 2005), before the Lithuanian Commission on Crimes Under Soviet and Nazi Regimes, and at the Fourteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies Conference (Jerusalem, July 2005).  In recent months, his essays on the Holocaust have been published in  The Vanished World of Lithuanian Jewry, Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust, and The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Thought and Theology, Holocaust and Jewish Historical Consciousness, and elsewhere.

This year’s annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American  Academy of Religion  will include two panels devoted to the art work of Samuel Bak, a member of the  Wyman Institute Arts & Letters Council.  The conference will be held in Philadelphia from November 19-22.  In addition, an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Bak will be displayed in Philadelphia at Drexel University’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery from November 19 through December 17.  The exhibit is jointly sponsored by the Judaic Studies Program and the College of Media Arts and Design of Drexel University, and is made possible courtesy of the Pucker Gallery of Boston (whose owners, Bernard and Suzanne Pucker, are likewise members of our Arts & Letters Council.)

Arts & Letters Council member Neshama Carlebach was the featured singer at “The Sixtieth Anniversary of the Liberation of the Concentration Camps:  A Community Wide Celebration,” held in Chicago  on September 18.  An audience of over 800 attended the event, which  was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and Sheerit Hapleitah of Metropolitan Chicago.  Speakers included U.S. Congressmember Jan Schakowsky (D-Il), Holocaust survivors, and their children.

Academic Council member Prof. Zsuzsanna Ozsvath (University of Texas at Dallas) was interviewed recently on Hungary’s two largest radio stations, in connection with the publication of the Hungarian edition of her book In the Footsteps of Orpheus: The Life and Work of Miklós Radnóti  (Indiana UP: 2000), the Holocaust survivor who is considered one of Hungary’s greatest 20th-century poets.

The Death of Feminism: What’s Next In the Struggle for Women’s Freedom,  by Arts & Letters Council member Dr. Phyllis Chesler, will be published in November by Palgrave-Macmillan.  Hillel Halkin calls it as “a brave and passionate book.”  Describing her own suffering as a young bride living under “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan, Chesler presents ” vigorous arguments and distressing human stories,” The Kirkus Review notes.

Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library is currently featuring an exhibit of original works by the renowned artist (and Wyman Institute Arts & Letters Council member) Mark Podwal.  The exhibit of paintings, drawings, and prints,  “Illuminating Tales: The Art of Mark Podwal,” will be on view through the end of October.  The exhibit includes a section highlighting some of the books Podwal illustrated for Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate (and member of the Wyman Institute Advisory Committee).  Prof. Wiesel spoke at a special reception celebrating the exhibit, on September 27.

Prof. Wiesel’s latest book, The Time of the Uprooted, has just been published.  The New York Jewish Week describes it as “an absorbing novel that moves back and forth in time, from 1940s Hungary to New York at the end of the 20th century, shifting points of view, with emotional intensity packed into memories and stories.”

Academic Council member Prof. Harry Reicher (U. of Pennsylvania Law School) authored “The Day Evil Became the Rule of Law”, an op-ed in the September 23 issue of The Forward, marking the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Laws.  He also wrote  “Right to Live Trumps,”  in The National Law Journal on  September 26, concerning the correct balance between anti-terrorist measures and the system of human rights that arose as a consequence of the Holocaust.

Academic Council member Prof. Laurel Leff (Northeastern U.) spoke at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies, on October 6, about her book, Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper.

Academic Council member Prof. Paul Miller (McDaniel College),
who spent 2004-05 as a Fulbright scholar in Bosnia-Herzgovina, spoke on “Contested Memory:  The Bosnian Genocide in Serb and Muslim Minds” at a recent conference in Leipzig  for World and Global History.  He also published an article in the September 23 issue of the Bosnia-Herzegovina
newsmagazine DANI, on  “How I Lectured to Bosnians about Genocide.”

Prof. David Weinberg (Wayne State U.), a member of our Academic Council, was an invited participant at a scholar’s workshop on Survival, Displacement, and Struggle: Jewish Displaced Persons in the Wake of the Holocaust, which was held at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in July.  He continues to work on his monograph on European Jewish revival after World War II.  Dr. Weinberg is also revising the articles relating to France for the  new edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center  and a member of our Academic Council, authored articles about Wiesenthal’s passing in the  Jerusalem Post, The Independent, The Scotsman, and the Israeli weekly Makor Rishon.  feature articles about Zuroff’s work appeared in the London Daily Express on September 29 and the latest issue of the Yeshiva University Review.

Sourcebooks has just published The Days of Awe, the latest novel by Arts & Letters Council member Hugh Nissenson.

Arts & Letters Council member Archie Rand is one of the artists whose work is featured in “Waldsee, 1944,” an exhibit currently  featured  at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in New York City.  The exhibit consists of artistic renderings of postcards, created by nearly seventy artists, that the Nazis compelled Hungarian Jews to write to their families shortly  before being deported to their deaths.

IV. Upcoming Events:

October 2005:

Wyman Institute Advisory Committee member Prof. Elie Wiesel will speak on “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” on October 31 at Boston University, as part of the University’s “Three Encounters With Elie Wiesel” series.  The final segment of the series will feature Prof. Wiesel’s remarks on “The Time of the Uprooted,” on November 21.  He will also speak on “Faith in the Community,” on November 10, at the 92nd Street Y, in New York City.

Dr. Irvin Ungar, president of the Arthur Szyk Society and member of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council, will lead a Szyk Renaissance Tour to Poland from October 21 to October 28, 2005.  Celebrating the life and work of Arthur Szyk, the famed artist and Bergson Group activist, the tour will visit Lodz, Szyk’s hometown; Krakow, where he studied art;  and Warsaw, home to numerous Jewish landmarks. The participants will take part in the opening reception at the premiere in Poland of “Justice Illuminated: The Art of Arthur Szyk,” and will  meet with high level Polish government officials, U.S. diplomats, and Jewish leaders.  More information:  http://szyk.org/szykrentour/index.html

Wyman Institute Academic Council member Prof. Laurel Leff will speak at Congregation Beth Avraham Yosef, in Toronto, on October 31 at 8:00 pm, about her book, Buried by The Times:  The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper.

November 2005:

On Thursday, November 10, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, at 594 Broadway (between Houston and Prince), New York City, will host the Wyman Institute’s exhibit and program, “Cartoonists Against the Holocaust: Art in the Service of Humanity.”  Groups of middle school and high school students will visit the Museum on that day, by arrangement, for the one hour program.  There will be eight consecutive one-hour programs throughout the day, from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm.  To arrange a visit, please call the Wyman Institute at 202-434-8994.

December 2005:

The Wyman Institute will hold a session on “America and the Holocaust: New Research, New Perspectives,” at the annual conference of the Association for Jewish Studies, to be held at the Washington Hilton and Towers in Washington, D.C., on Monday, December 19.  The session will be chaired by Dr. Rafael Medoff and will feature presentations by Prof. Stephen Norwood (U. of Oklahoma) on The Response of the American Academic Community to the Persecution of German Jewry; Prof. Laurel Leff (Northeastern U.) on American Journalists’ Responses to Hitler; and Prof. Bat-Ami Zucker (Bar Ilan U.) on Frances Perkins and the German Jewish Refugee Problem.

Prof. Harry Reicher (U. of Pennsylvania Law School), a member of our Academic Council, will speak on “The Destruction of Law in Nazi Germany,” at a conference at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in New York City on December 4.

May 2006:

Cynthia Ozick, chair of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council, will speak at the Jewish Community Council of Washington, D.C., on May 9, 2006, at 7:30 pm, about Heir to the Glimmering World, her acclaimed new novel about a family of German Jewish refugees.