Wyman Institute Update: September 5, 2007

To: Members of the Board of Directors, Academic Council, Advisory Committee, and Arts & Letters Council of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies

Re: Update on Recent Developments


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

Zvi Ganin is one of Israel’s leading scholars of Zionist history. He served as Professor of Modern Jewish History at Beit Berl College, the largest state teachers college in Israel, from 1974 to 1998, twice serving as chairman of the department.

His books include Truman, American Jewry and Israel, 1945-48 (Holmes & Meier, 1979); Kiryat Hayyim: Experiment in an Urban Utopia, 1933-83 (Milo, 1984); and, most recently, An Uneasy Relationship: American Jewish Leadership and Israel, 1948-1957 (Syracuse University Press, 2005). He also edited (with Y. Freundlich) the reference volume Political Documents of the Jewish Agency, May 1945-December 1946 (Hassifriya Haziyonit, 1996). Prof. Ganin is now working on a book about Abba Eban’s service as ambassador to the United States during the Cold War.

A popular guest lecturer in the United States, Prof. Ganin speaks under the
the auspices of the B’nai B’rith Lecture Bureau and the Hillel Foundation. He has also served as Scholar in Residence at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and at Arizona State University, Phoenix.



The Wyman Institute’s fifth national conference, “Jewish Activists Who Shook the World: The Bergson Group, American Jewry, and the Holocaust,” was held before a standing room-only audience at the Fordham University Law School on June 17. Elie Wiesel, David S. Wyman, and Dr. Rebecca Kook gave the keynote addresses; Prof. Thane Rosenbaum was the MC, and Neil Barsky chaired the event. To view a video of the conference, please visit:

For a detailed report about the conference, please visit:

The remarks by Professors Wiesel and Wyman, urging the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to acknowledge the Bergson Group in its exhibits, led to two petitions to the Museum. The first petition, by 110 historians and Jewish leaders, may be viewed at:


The second petition, by 190 relatives of rabbis who took part in the Bergson Group’s 1943 march in Washington, may be viewed at:


As a result of the petitions, the Holocaust Museum announced that it will, by next spring, add material to its Permanent Exhibit acknowledging the Bergson Group’s role in promoting rescue from the Holocaust.

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Research by the Wyman Institute recently brought to public attention the fact that U.S. Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., the father of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was an active supporter of the Bergson Group. As a result, Congresswoman Pelosi sent a message to the Wyman Institute’s recent national conference, which read, in part:

“The Wyman Institute is engaged in uniquely important and valuable work, teaching the lessons of America’s response to the Holocaust so that innocent victims of persecution will never again be abandoned by the international community. … I was thrilled to recently learn, from the Wyman Institute’s research, that my father, the late Thomas D’Alesandro, was one of those who spoke out for rescue. As a United States Representative from Maryland, my father actively supported the Bergson Group in its campaigns to save Jews from the Holocaust and help establish the State of Israel. I am deeply proud to know that he was one of those who stood up for what was right, at a time when too many people chose to look the other way.”

Speaker Pelosi discussed the Wyman Institute’s research about her father, when she addressed an assembly of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, in Washington in April … The Wyman Institute’s research on D’Alesandro was also the subject of a recent cover story in the Baltimore Jewish Times:

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To commemorate Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), in April, the Wyman Institute sponsored a special performance of Bernard Weinraub’s “The Accomplices, “ an off-Broadway play about the Bergson Group. At a reception after the show, speakers included Bergson’s daughter, Dr. Rebecca Kook; Jeremy Ben-Ami, Wyman Institute board member and son of a Bergson Group leader, Yitshaq Ben-Ami; and Mr. Weinraub. They were joined by members of the cast and crew for a lively and informative discussion.

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In July, the Young Israel of Long Beach (NY) held an event honoring a member of their community, Rabbi Samuel Turk, for his participation in the 1943 rabbis’ march in Washington. Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff was the featured speaker. Rebbetzin Deborah Turk and their son, Rabbi Mishael Turk of Monsey, NY, also took part in the event.

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The Wyman Institute held an event at the Silver Spring (MD) Jewish Center in February, to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the voyage of the S.S. Ben Hecht, the Bergson Group’s refugee ship. Speakers included Barbara Levitan and David A. Miller, the daughter and nephew of the ship’s captain, Bob Levitan; Dr. Rafael Medoff; and Rabbi Herzl Kranz, of the Silver Spring Jewish Center. The event also included a special tribute to the late David Brodetzky. Friends of the family have established a David Brodetzky Memorial Research Initiative, to sponsor Wyman Institute programs in David’s memory. In conjunction with the event, the Wyman Institute unveiled a new online photo exhibit, “The Voyage of the S.S. Ben Hecht: A Refugee Ship That
Changed History.” It may be viewed at:

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The New Press has issued a paperback edition of David Wyman’s classic, The Abandonment of the Jews, with a new introduction by Prof. Wyman and a foreword by Elie Wiesel. Copies may be ordered for $20 from The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, 1200 G St. NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005.



The Wyman Institute’s successful effort to convince the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to acknowledge the Bergson Group received widespread media attention, including this feature article in the Washington Post:

…as well as this article in the Jerusalem Post: Article here

The Jerusalem Post, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, and the Connecticut Jewish Ledger all ran editorials strongly praising the Wyman Institute’s appeal to the Museum … The Wyman Institute’s recent national conference on the Bergson Group was covered prominently by the Jerusalem Post, New York Sun, and Jewish Telegraphic Agency, among others. The Irish Echo, New York City’s largest Irish-American newspaper, published an excerpt from Mayor Ed Koch’s remarks at the conference about Irish-American support for the Bergson Group … The Wyman Institute event featuring “The Accomplices” was the subject of a news article and editorial in the New York Sun, and Dr. Medoff was interviewed about “The Accomplices” on the Shalom USA radio program in Baltimore … The Wyman Institute’s event commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the voyage of the S.S. Ben Hecht was reported prominently in the Washington Jewish Week and the Israeli media … A recent article in People magazine about Mrs. Dina Babbitt’s struggle to regain the paintings she did in Auschwitz, mentioned the Wyman Institute’s petition by 450 comic book artists and writers supporting Mrs. Babbitt … A letter by Ed Koch and Rafael Medoff about French antisemitism was published recently in the Washington Times, as was a letter by Dr. Medoff about William Randolph Hearst’s support for the Bergson Group … Dr. Medoff’s op-ed about the discovery of antisemitic writings by Winston Churchill was published in the Philadelphia Bulletin and other newspapers in July … His essay on the controversy among American Jews over the 1946 U.S. loan to England appeared in the Jerusalem Post in January … An essay by the Hon. Stephen Solarz (member of the Wyman Institute’s board of directors and Dr. Medoff, on Israel and the Darfur refugee crisis, was published in The Forward on September 7 … Dr. Rebecca Kook was interviewed recently interviewed by the Israeli media about the Bergson Group and the Darfur genocide. See:



Prof. Thane Rosenbaum, member of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council and MC of two of our national conferences, will moderate a panel on “Modern Anti-Semitism: A Conversation with Abraham Foxman and Stuart Eizenstat,” at the 92nd Street Y, on Thurday, September 6, 2007, at 8:15 pm. (Tickets: call 212-415-5729)

Prof. Rosenbaum will also speak (along with Ira Stoll of the New York Sun, Nathan Diament of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and Ruth Messinger of the American Jewish World Service) on “Are Jews Becoming Closet Conservatives?,” at the 92nd Street Y, on December 3, 2007.

Earlier this year, Prof. Rosenbaum was a featured speaker in a panel at an Israeli Independence Day event at the 92nd Street Y. The panel, which also included historian Dr. Daniel Goldhagen and Dr. Michael Berenbaum, former research director at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, discussed “Is There a Danger of Holocaust Fatigue?”

Wyman Institute Advisory Committee member Dr. Ruth Gruber will speak, together with Harold Ickes, Jr., at the 92nd Street Y, on November 29, 2007. (Tickets: call 212-415-5729) Dr. Gruber’s latest book, Witness: One of the Great Correspondents of the Twentieth Century Tells Her Story, has just been published by Schocken, 2007. It includes photographs of the Holocaust refugees at the shelter in upstate Oswego, New York, which she helped organize, at the direction of Mr. Ickes’s father, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, Sr.

The North American Council of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, chaired by Wyman Institute board of directors member Sigmund Rolat, held an event on August 28 at the Center for Jewish History to celebrate the groundbreaking for the Museum, which is in Warsaw. The event included the final viewing of the acclaimed photographic exhibit, “And I Still See Their Faces: The Vanished World of Polish Jews.” For photos and highlights of the speeches from June’s Groundbreaking Ceremony in Warsaw, please visit:

Academic Council member Prof. Gershon Greenberg (American U.) was one of a small group of scholars selected to participate in a summer research workshop at the U.S. Holocause Memorial Museum on the responses of American Catholics, Protestants, and Jews to Kristallnacht. He and his colleagues presented their research findings at a Museum event on August 24.

Arts & Letters Council member Stuart Erdheim spoke about American Jewry’s response to the Holocaust at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, in New York City, on April 17. Wyman board of directors member Robert Weintraub organized and introduced the event.

Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff spoke on “The Haggadah That Challenged Hitler: Arthur Szyk, Artist and Activist,” at the Synagogue for the Arts, in New York City, in April. Special thanks to Rabbi Jonathan Glass for organizing the event.

Debbie Benami-Rahm, daughter of Yitshaq Ben-Ami of the Bergson Group and leading member of the Wyman Institute’s “They Spoke Out” network, will speak on the Bergson Group and America’s response to the Holocaust, at a Greater Miami Jewish Federation event on January 9, 2008.

The Hon. Franz Leichter, member of the Wyman Institute’s board of directors, traveled to Austria in May to visit the site of the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, where his mother, Marianne Kathe Leichter, was murdered in March 1942. Senator Leichter was accompanied by his children, one of whom, Kathy Leichter, is a filmmaker who is working on a documentary about her grandmother’s experiences. While at the camp, they joined with Austrian survivors who were present for the annual commemoration of the camp’s liberation, and together held a ceremony to honor Marianne Leichter. A prominent actress from Vienna read some of Mrs. Leichter’s writings and a poem she composed in the Camp which survived through inmates memorizing it.

“Dictation: A Quartet,” a collection of four novellas by Cynthia Ozick, chair of our Arts & Letters Council, will be published in April by Houghton Mifflin.

Prof. Haim Genizi (Bar Ilan U.), a member of our Academic Council, authored a review of Buried by the Times: the Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper, by Laurel Leff, for the September 2007 issue of the Journal of American History.

A new one-hour documentary film, House of Life: The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, narrated by Claire Bloom, is a collaboration of Academy Award winning filmmaker Allan Miller (From Mao to Mozart) and artist (and Wyman Institute Arts & Letters Council member) Mark Podwal. From the film’s description: “Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery, a place of haunting beauty and mystery, has endured wars and pogroms, floods and fires, assimilation and an urban clearing project that destroyed most of the ancient Jewish Quarter it once served. Miraculously, it even survived the Nazi occupation. The cemetery’s heart-rending chaotic landscape reflects the cramped conditions of the former ghetto. In the film we encounter the curators, historians, rabbis, guides, conservationists, all devoted to the preservation of this unforgettable place.” House of Life will premiere in Prague on September 17, 2007 at The National Film Archives and in the United States this October at The Hampton’s International Film Festival .

Academic Council member Prof. Alan Berger (Florida Atlantic U.) was guest editor of the April 2007 issue of the journal Literature and Belief, a special issue on Elie Wiesel; he also interviewed Wiesel for the issue. Prof. Berger’s essay, “Faith and God During the Holocaust: Teaching ‘Night’ With The Later Memoirs,” appeared in Approaches to Teaching ‘Night,’ published in 2007 by the Modern Language.

Academic Council members Prof. Rochelle Millen (Wittenberg U.) and Dr. Myra Goldenberg co-edited the book, Testimony, Tensions and Tikkun: Teaching the Holocaust in Colleges and Universities, published by the University Of Washington Press in May/June 2007. The volume, which is part of the Goldner Series on the Holocaust, included chapters by each of them, as well as by Prof. Mary Todd, who is also a Wyman Institute Academic Council member.



The Wyman Institute offers its deepest condolences to the family of Dr. Burton Appleton, a longtime Institute supporter, who recently passed away. May his memory be for a blessing.



September 6, 2007: Prof. Thane Rosenbaum will moderate a panel on “Modern Anti-Semitism: A Conversation with Abraham Foxman and Stuart Eizenstat,” at the 92nd Street Y, at 8:15 pm. Call 212-415-5729.

November 29, 2007: Dr. Ruth Gruber and Harold Ickes, Jr. will speak on the shelter in Oswego, NY for Holocaust refugees, at the 92nd Street Y, at 8:15 pm. Call 212-415-5729.

December 3, 2007: Prof. Thane Rosenbaum will speak (along with Ira Stoll of the New York Sun, Nathan Diament of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and Ruth Messinger of the American Jewish World Service) on “Are Jews Becoming Closet Conservatives?,” at the 92nd Street Y, at 8:15 pm. Call 212-415-5729.

January 9, 2008: Debbie Benami-Rahm will speak on the Bergson Group and America’s response to the Holocaust, at a Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

March 30, 2008: The Wyman Institute will sponsor a session on “New Research on America’s Response to Nazism and the Holocaust,” at the annual conference of the Organization of American Historians, in New York City. The session will be held at the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16 St. on Sunday, March 30, 2008; time to be announced. Speakers will include Prof. Stephen Norwood (U. of Oklahoma , member of our Academic Council) on “American Universities’ Response to Nazism, 1933-1939”; Prof. Laurel Leff (Northeastern U., and a member of our Academic Council) on “How Media Coverage Has Shaped American Public Perceptions of Genocide”; Dr. Susan Subak (Washington, D.C.) on “American Unitarian Efforts to Rescue Jews from the Holocaust”; and Dr. Melissa Jane Taylor (State Department Office of the Historian) on “American Diplomatic Responses to the Anschluss.” Dr. Rafael Medoff will chair the session. The event will be open to the public. For more information, call the Wyman Institute at 202-434-8994.