Wyman Institute Update – September 30, 2006


* Our New Technology Adviser: Ken Devine

Kenneth Devine, the vice president and chief technology officer of WNET-Channel 13, the PBS television station in New York City, has joined The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies as our new Technology Adviser. Ken is one of the major players in developing new technology for the entire Public Broadcasting System nationally.

* Welcome to the newest member of the Wyman Institute’s Academic Council:

Leonard Swidler, Ph.D, S.T.L., LL.D., LL.D. Len is Professor of Catholic Thought and Interreligious Dialogue at Temple University; founder and director of the Institute for Interreligious, Intercultural Dialogue; and co-founder and president of the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church. He is co-founder and editor of the prestigious scholarly publication, the Journal of Ecumenical Studies (its Autumn 2004 edition was devoted entirely to a retrospective exploration on the significance and impact of David S. Wyman’s The Abandonment of the Jews). He also spoke at the Wyman Institute’s 2005 national conference at Fordham University, taking part in the panel marking the twentieth anniversary of The Abandonment of the Jews.

Prof. Swidler has authored or edited more than twenty books of religious thought, including A Bridge to Buddhist-Christian Dialogue; Buddhism made Plain: An Introduction for Christians and Jews; Catholic-Communist Collaboration in Italy; Die Zukunft der Theologie im Dialog der Religionen und Weltanschauungen; Freedom in the Church Muslims in Dialogue:The Evolution of A Dialogue; Toward a Universal Theology of Religion; and Women in Judaism: The Status of Women in Formative Judaism. (For a complete list, see: http://global-dialogue.org/swidlerbooks)


* Scholars Protest New Book about FDR and the Holocaust

The Wyman Institue has issued a 33-page report analyzing the new book by Robert N. Rosen, ‘Saving the Jews: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust’. The report, titled Whitewashing FDR’s Holocaust Record, was co-authored by Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff; Dr. Racelle Weiman, director of the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion; and Dr. Bat-Ami Zucker of Bar Ilan University, author of In Search of Refuge: Jews and U.S. Consulates in Nazi Germany 1933-1941. The text of the report may be viewed at www.WymanInstitute.org

At the same time, the Institute organized a petition, signed by fifty-five leading Holocaust scholars, protesting passages in Rosen’s book that call criticism of FDR’s Holocaust record “anti-American” and “America-bashing.” The petition stated: “Such name-calling and invective are deplorable, false, and have no place in serious discussion of the Roosevelt administration’s response to one of the greatest moral crises of the Twentieth Century.” The signatories included Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, former chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, Prof. Blanche Cook, author of the acclaimed multi-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, and Prof. Susannah Heschel of Dartmouth College. The text of the petition, with a complete list of the signatories, may be viewed at www.WymanInstitute.org

* Scholars Denounce Israel-Nazi Comparison

In August, the Wyman Institute mobilized sixty leading Holocaust scholars from around the world to sign a letter to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, denouncing his statements comparing Israel to the Nazis. The signatories included two former senior officials of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Dr. Michael Berenbaum and Dr. Walter Reich; Journal of Genocide Research editor Henry Huttenbach; Genocide Watch president Gregory Stanton; and numerous other prominent scholars, including David S. Wyman, Daniel Goldhagen, Richard Rubenstein, and Jacob Neusner.

* Campaign for the Return of Auschwitz Paintings

The Wyman Institute recently undertook several efforts on behalf of an Auschwitz survivor who is trying to regain paintings she did while imprisoned in the Nazi death camp. Mrs. Dina Babbitt, now 83 and living in California, was deported to Auschwitz as a teenager. Her mural of Snow White on the wall of the children’s barracks brought her to the attention of the infamous war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele, who compelled her to paint portraits of a number of his Gypsy victims. After the war, she worked as an animator on numerous popular American cartoon shows. In the 1960s, the Polish Government’s Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum acquired seven of her paintings, but refuses to return them to her. As a result, the Wyman Institute organized a petition by art gallery owners, museum curators and artists supporting Mrs. Babbitt. The petition was led by Institute board member James R. Borynack, chairman and CEO of Wally Findlay Galleries International.

The Institute also organized a second petition, signed by 450 cartoonists, animators, and comic book creators, urging the Polish authorities to return the paintings. The petition was spearheaded by Arts & Letters Council members Joe Kubert and Adam Kubert.


The Wyman Institute’s campaign on behalf of Dina Babbitt’s struggle to regain her Auschwitz paintings was reported in the New York Times (twice), the Detroit Free Press, and many other newspapers; in addition, Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff was interviewed on the leading Polish television station, TVN … The Washington Post and The Forward recently published feature articles about the Wyman Institute’s critique of ‘Saving the Jews’ by Robert Rosen … The Wyman Institute’s petition protesting the statement by Venezuela’s president comparing Israel to the Nazis was the subject of a lengthy article in the Jewish Journal of Florida … The New York Post quoted the Wyman Institute in a recent article about Mel Gibson’s links to Holocaust-deniers … Dr. Medoff’s op-ed on U.S. institutions inviting Iran’s president to speak was syndicated by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and appeared in numerous Jewish weeklies … His essay about the controversy over Senator George Allen’s Jewish background was published in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and the Washington Jewish Week … He also authored Rosh Hashana-related and Yom Kippur-related feature stories (about the Bergson Group) that appeared in various newspapers … His article marking the 60th anniversary of the Bergson Group’s play, “A Flag is Born,” was syndicated by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and a longer version was recently published as a feature article in the Jerusalem Post.

Letters by Dr. Medoff appeared recently in the Washington Post (concering Andrew Young’s derogatory statement about Jews), Commentary (concerning the Allies’ failure to bomb Auschwitz) and the Boston Jewish Advocate (concerning the Presbyterian church’s debate over divesting from Israel). Audrey Cantor, of our “They Spoke Out” network, authored a letter in the Connecticut Jewish Ledger about the involvement of her uncle, boxing champion Barney Ross, in the Bergson group.


“The Jews of Czestochowa: Coexistence-Holocaust-Memory” and “Inspired by Jewish Culture,” two award-winning exhibitions sponsored by Wyman Institute Board of Directors member Sigmund Rolat, are currently touring the United States and Canada. The two shows will be on view in Toronto from October 29 until November 16, 2006.

“The Jews of Czestochowa” chronicles the long, richly textured history and culture of a large, vibrant Polish Jewish community from the 17th century through modern times. “Inspired by a Jewish Culture” is an exhibition of works from the Jacek Malczewski School of Fine Arts in Czestochowa, which won great acclaim at the National Library in Warsaw, the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival, and at the Festival of Four Cultures in Lodz. It was recently chosen by the Polish Ministry of Culture to be incorporated into the nationwide curriculum of all schools of fine arts.

“The Jews of Czestochowa” will be on display at the Miles Nadal JCC, Jacobs Lounge, 750 Spadina Avenue, Toronto. Mr. Rolat will speak there on Sunday, November 12, at 2:00 pm. For more information, call 416-924-6211. “Inspired by Jewish Culture” will be at the Hillel of Greater Toronto, University of Toronto Wolfond Centre for Jewish Campus Life, 36 Harbord Street, Toronto. Mr. Rolat will speak there on Sunday, November 12, at 5:00 pm. For more information, call 416-882-1572.

Mr. Rolat is president of the World Society of Czestochowa Jews, which will hold its reunion trip to Czestochowa from October 9-12. It will include meetings with Polish officials; a visit to Hasac, site of the former Nazi slave labor camp; and a tour of the famous Jasna Gora monastery of the Black Madonna. There will also be a symphony concert and a banquet reception. For more information, call 212-226-2900 or write to: czworldsociety@yahoo.com Mr. Rolat also addressed a recent meeting of the National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors, in New York City, which included a screening of his acclaimed documentary, As If It Were Yesterday, about the prewar and Holocaust-era experiences of the Jewish community of Czestochowa.

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Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper, by Academic Council member Prof. Laurel Leff (Northeastern U.) has won the American Journalism Historians Association’s award for best book in media history published in 2005. The Association is the nation’s largest organization of media history scholars. The award will be presented at the Association’s annual convention, in Wichita, Kansas, on October 13.

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Advisory Committee member Elie Wiesel spoke on “Protocols of Infamy: A Study of Anti-Semitic Forgery and Hatred,” at the 92nd St. Y, in New York City.

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Advisory Committee member Prof. Shimon Shetreet, on sabbatical from Hebrew University, spent the first part of his sabbatical as Visiting Professor of Law at the Goethe University of Frankfurt. For the second semester of 2006, he will be Visiting Professor at the University of Zurich and the University of St. Gallen. Later in the year, he will serve as Herbert Smith Visiting Professor of Law at Cambridge University and also as Senior Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the University of London. The final part of his sabbatical year will be spent as Visiting Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University. Before leaving on sabbatical, Prof. Shetreet served as adviser to the Knesset Justice Committee on the preparation of a Draft Constitution for Israel, and spoke at a Knesset event launching the draft. He also chaired a subcommittee of the President’s Committee on the Review of the System of Government.

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The Forum Gallery will host “Kabbalistics,” a new exhibition of artwork by Mark Podwal, a member of our Arts & Letters Council, through October 14. The Gallery is located at 745 Fifth Avenue, New York City. For more information, call 212-355-4545 or visit www.forumgallery.com

Another solo exhibition, “Visual Metaphors: The Art of Mark Podwal,” will be held at the American Center in Prague’s Vratislavsky Palace, through November 24, weekdays from 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm. The exhibition is under the auspices of the United States Embassy in Prague and the Jewish Museum in Prague. The opening night reception, on September 21, featured remarks by Dr. Podwal and U.S. Cultural Attache Michael Feldman, and songs by the Mishpaha Choir.

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Academic Council member Prof. Gil Troy (McGill University) authored a review of Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost: In Search of Six of the Six Million for the Raleigh News and Observer on September 17.

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Academic Council member Prof. Marc Lee Raphael (College of William and Mary) edited the forthcoming, (November 2006) Volume Two of The Representation of the Holocaust in Literature and Film (William and Mary, 2006).

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Academic Council member Prof. Haim Genizi (Bar-Ilan University) spoke on “Christian-Jewish Dialogue in Toronto after the Holocaust,” at the Eleventh Biennial Jerusalem Conference on Canadian Studies, in Jerusalem in July. His essay “The Rehabilitation of the Religious Zionist Movement in Hungary after the Holocaust, 1945-1949,” coauthored with Agi Suranyi, will be published shortly in Yehuda Friedlander, ed., Development and Changes in Religious Zionism in Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora (Bar Ilan University Press). In addition, his review of Menachem Weinstein’s Peduyim Lezion: Activities of “Hapoel Hamizrachi” among the Holocaust Survivors in Italy, was published in the Winter 2006 issue of Gesher.

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“Landscapes of Jewish Experience,” an exhibition of paintings by Arts & Letters Council member Samuel Bak, will be held at the Laurie M. Tisch Gallery of the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue (76th Street) through November 7. For more information, call 646-606-5708.

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Arts & Letters Council member Thane Rosenbaum was the keynote speaker at “Carrying the Legacy,” the first conference of children and grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors, sponsored by the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education and Generrations of the Shoah International-New Jersey. It was held at Rutgers University on September 10.

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Academic Council member Dr. Marcia Sachs Littell (Richard Stockton College) taught at the first Teachers’ Institute on the Holocaust in Poland. It took place in July at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and at Warsaw University, with two hundred Polish middle and high school teachers in attendance. The Master of Arts Program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, which Dr. Littell founded at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, is serving as the modeal for program in Poland.


November 5:

Dr. Rafael Medoff will speak at Congregation Beth Avraham Yosef, in Toronto, on “A Cry That Could Not Be Silenced:
M. J. Nurenberger, the Bergson Group, and the Struggle for Allied Action Against the Holocaust.” The event will mark the re-issue of The Scared and the Doomed, Nurenberger’s memoir of the Holocaust and 1940s Jewish Politics.

November 7:

Deborah Benami-Rahm, of the Wyman Institute’s “They Spoke Out” network, will speak at Florida Atlantic University at 9:30 am, concerning the Holocaust rescue activities of her late father, Yitshaq Ben-Ami. The event, organized and hosted by Academic Council member Prof. Alan Berger, is co-sponsored by the Wyman Institute. It will take place in conjunction with that week’s commemoration of the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

December 17: Arts & Letters Council member Thane Rosenbaum will host a panel on “What’s So Funny About Jews?,” with Judy Gold and Jackie Hoffmann, at the 92nd St. Y, in New York City. (212-415-5500)

December 18: Academic Council member Prof. Baila Shargel (SUNY-Purchase) will speak on “Henrietta Szold–Lost Love, Found Mission,” at the 92nd St. Y, in New York City. (212-415-5500)