Wyman Institute News & Events – March 2009


Wyman Institute Academic Council member Dr. Alex Grobman will speak on “Antisemitism in the 21st Century: Has Anything Changed?” at the Rockland County (NY) Holocaust Museum and Study Center, Spring Valley, at 2:00 pm. Information: 845-356-2700

April 1, 2009: Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff will speak to students at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in New York City, on “The Bergson Group: A Lesson in Making a Difference.”

April 6, 2009: The film “House of Life: the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague,” by Arts & Letters Council member Mark Podwal with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Allan Miller, will air on PBS-Channel 13 in the New York City area at 10:00 pm. Check your local TV guide for dates and times that it will be broadcast on Public Television in your area. PBS describes the film “a celebration of the richness of the Jewish spirit.”

April 7, 2009: Opening reception for “Arthur Szyk: Illuminated New York,” a major new exhibit about Szyk –the famous artist and Bergson Group activist– designed by Arts & Letters Council member Dr. Irvin Ungar, chairman of the Arthur Szyk Society. The reception will be held at the Broome Street Gallery, 498 Broome St., New York City, from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. In addition, Dr. Ungar will lecture on “Freedom Illuminated: The Szyk Haggadah” at the exhibit hall on April 12 at 3:00 pm; Tom Freudenheim will speak on “Arthur Szyk in Context” on April 16 at 6:30 pm; Dr. Ungar will speak on “Arthur Szyk: Soldier in Art” on April 19 at 3:00 pm. The exhibit will run from April 7 to April 26. Information: 650-343-9578.

April 9, 2009: Academic Council member Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsvath will be the keynote speaker at the Memphis Jewish community’s 47th Yom HaShoah Commemoration. 7:00 pm at the Memphis Jewish Community Center.



Welcome to the newest member of the Wyman Institute’s Board of Directors, Mr. Michael Berkowicz.

Michael grew up in post war Poland. He was involved in Jewish social and cultural life in Poland and attended a public Jewish school while growing up in Wroclaw, where he studied Yiddish and Jewish history along with secular subjects. He is passionately interested in Polish-Jewish dialogue and the Jewish presence in contemporary Poland.

Trained as a physicist, Michael began his career by teaching physics. In 1974, he started Plexability Ltd. to design and fabricate high-end custom acrylic furnishings for designers and architects. In 1989, with his wife Bonnie Srolovitz, Michael founded Presentations Gallery, focusing his efforts on sanctuary design, liturgical furnishings and ceremonial arts. Presentations has received numerous awards including: Finalist – Spertus Museum Judaica Prize, the Award for Excellence in Ceremonial & Ritual Art, and several AIA/IFRAA Awards for Religious Art. His work is in the permanent collection of the Jewish Museum in NY.

Michael’s many philanthropic endeavors include his current positions as chairman of the New York Region and treasurer of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews; founding member and vice president of the famed Krakow Festival, Polish Jewry’s preeminent annual cultural event; and president of Faith & Form. He is also past chair of the American Institute of Architects’ Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture; and a founding member and past president of the American Guild of Judaic Art.

Michael’s expertise is particularly relevant to the work of the Wyman Institute, given our ongoing efforts to persuade leading museums to create new exhibits and materials recognizing Americans who spoke out for rescue from the Holocaust.



1. The exhibits featured in the new Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, which will open on April 19, 2009, will include photographs of the Bergson Group’s march by 400 rabbis in Washington in 1943. The photos were provided to the museum by the Wyman Institute.

2. The National Endowment for the Arts has selected The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick, chair of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council, for its nationwide Big Read project (a one-city-one-book program). Cynthia has been doing radio and live video interviews and talks in different cities, from Waukee, Iowa, to Rochester, NY, where the book becomes the fulcrum for a six-week study of the Holocaust. The NEA has also commissioned a film interview with Cynthia on The Shawl, directed by Lawrence Bridges, that is being shown in schools and libraries. Under the auspices of PEN/Faulkner, Cynthia recently spoke about “The Shawl” to high school students at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In addition, the NEA plans to bring the book, and the subject of the Holocaust, to a Federal prison; the publisher is donating copies for the inmates.

3. The hit discussion series “Newsmakers and Trendsetters with Thane Rosenbaum,” moderated by law professor, novelist, and Wyman Institute Arts & Letters Council member Thane Rosenbaum, recently concluded at the 92nd Street Y, with Thane’s “Conversation with Lawrence Summers” on February 10, and “Why Zionism Has Become a Dirty Word (with Oren Rudavsky, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal) on March 24. Thane also spoke on March 5 at Loyola Marymount University on “Artful Testimony: Responsibility and Imagination in Holocaust Narrative.“

4. Arts & Letters Council member Pierre Sauvage spoke about his film work-in-progress, “Not Idly By: Peter Bergson, America, and the Holocaust,” at the American Jewish University, in Los Angeles, on March 18. Dr. Michael Berenbaum also spoke. The event was sponsored by the Sigi Ziering Institute and the Varian Fry Institute. Pierre also spoke recently at the 2008 Lessons and Legacies Holocaust scholars’ conference, at Middlebury College (on “The Challenge to Us of Holocaust Rescuers”), and at Keene State College.

5. Academic Council member Dr. Eunice G. Pollack, coeditor of the Encyclopedia of American Jewish History (2008) and professor of history and Jewish studies at the University of North Texas, is editing a new series on “Antisemitism in America” for Academic Studies Press, a new Boston-based publishing house that specializes in Judaic Studies and Slavic Studies. She is currently editing the first volume in the series, a collection of 15 articles on Antisemitism on the campus, Past & Present, an outgrowth of the roundtable she conducted at the Association for Jewish Studies convention in Washington, D.C. last December. Although the book focuses largely on the American campus, it will also include some articles on the campus in England as well as Canada. Anyone interested in contributing to the volume should contact her at epollack@unt.edu

6. Academic Council member Dr. Alex Grobman is serving as the historical consultant on a documentary about Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut, who took a small Torah into space that survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The film is being produced by the Tom Hanks production company. Alex appears in two new documentaries, Torah Umesorah’s Sh’eiris Hapleitah: World War II Was Over At Last, and a film on Irving Bunim. Alex also appears –together with David S. Wyman, Rafael Medoff, and Academic Council member Prof. Laurel Leff– in the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s new documentary about the Bergson Group and America’s Response to the Holocaust, “Against the Tide.”

7. Colleagues will pay tribute to Academic Council member Prof. Zev Garber (Los Angeles Valley College) at a luncheon in his honor at the combined Midwest Jewish Studies Association and Western States Jewish Association annual meeting at the University of Denver, April 26, 2009. The tribute luncheon with panel discussion is in recognition of his academic career, professional achievements and the appearance of Maven in Blue Jeans: a Festschrift in Honor of Zev Garber (Purdue University Press, 2009). Similar tribute and lecture will take place at Purdue University (April 13) and Los Angeles Valley College (April 30). Also, he will deliver the Samuel Sandmel Lecture on Jewish-Christian response to the Shoah at Greenville College in mid-April. Finally, he organized and will present the opening lecture at a conference on “Jesus in the Context of Judaism and the Challenge to the Church,” hosted by the Samuel Rosenthal Center for Judaic Studies at Case Western Reserve University, May 24-26, 2009. His review essay, “Reflections on Jesus,” appeared in Shofar 27.2 (Winter 2009).

8. Arts & Letters Council member J. David Spurlock, artist, publisher (Vanguard Productions), and champion of artists’ rights, continues to play a leading role in the Wyman Institute’s campaign to secure the return of Dina Babbitt’s paintings from the Auschwitz Museum. Spurlock is spearheading the opposition to the Orphaned Works Act of 2008 (HR 5889), which would deprive creators of exclusive rights and protections currently available under U.S. law and international agreements.
(For more information, see http://ipaorphanworks.blogspot.com/ and http://capwiz.com/illustrators partnership/home)



1. Arts & Letters Council member Thane Rosenbaum authored “Will the Real Liberals Please Stand Up?” in the Washington Post on February 28, 2009.

2. Academic Council member Prof. Steven Katz (Boston University) recently edited four books: The Shtetl: New Evaluations; The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Though (New York University Press); the Cambridge History of Judaism IV (Winner of the 2007 National Jewish Book Award in the Reference category); and Wrestling With God: Jewish Theological Responses during and after the Holocaust. Prof., Katz also attended the recent Interfaith Conference in Madrid, sponsored by the King of Spain and the King of Saudi Arabia.

3. An expanded edition of Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why, by Academic Council member Dr. Alex Grobman and Michael Sherman, will be published in April 2009 by the University of California Press.

4. After being censored for sixty years in London, the book Exodus 1947: The Ship that Launched a Nation, by Advisory Committee member Dr. Ruth Gruber, has been published in a British edition, to rave reviews. Ruth’s book Witness: One of the Great Correspondents of the Twentieth Century Tells Her Story (with 190 of her own photographs, and a foreword by Richard Holbrooke) has been published in paperback by Schocken. Ruth was one of the speakers at the Jerusalem International Film Festival’s panel discussion on “Myth, History, and Celluloid: Three Zionist Test Cases in International Film.”

5. Academic Council member Prof. Alan L. Berger, Raddock Family Eminent Scholar Chair of Holocaust Studies at Florida Atlantic University, co-edited the new Encyclopedia of Jewish-American Literature, with Gloria Cronin. t was published by Facts on File in February 2009.

6. The essay “From Country to Country: My Search for Home,” by Academic Council member Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsvath, was published in The Writer Uprooted: Contemporary Jewish Exile Literature, edited by Academic Council member Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld and published by Indiana University Press. Her essay, “Visions of Catastrophe in the Poetry of Miklos Radnoti,” was published in CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture.

7. Articles by Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff have appeared recently in The Forward (March 13), the Jerusalem Post (February 15 and March 6), and elsewhere. His recent letter to the New York Times (published in the Times electronic edition on March 23, 2009) follows:

LETTERS – New York Times .com

Re “Iran, Jews and Pragmatism” (column, March 16):

Roger Cohen says that the “rage” in response to his claim that Iran’s Jews are safe and secure erupted because “the hawks’ case against Iran depends on a vision of an apocalyptic regime” that is “frenziedly anti-Semitic.” He says that “the presence of these Jews” in Iran “undermines that vision.”
The status of the Jews in Iran should be evaluated based on the facts, regardless of hawks’ or doves’ political positions regarding United States policy toward Iran.

The State Department — which does not embrace the hawks’ position on Iran — in its “International Religious Freedom Report 2008” found that Iran’s Jews live in a “threatening atmosphere” and that religious minorities suffer “officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment, education, and housing.” The government “limited the distribution of Hebrew texts, particularly nonreligious texts, making it difficult to teach the language.”

Is the Iranian regime “frenziedly anti-Semitic,” as Mr. Cohen puts it? According to the State Department, “There was a rise in officially sanctioned anti-Semitic propaganda involving official statements, media outlets, publications and books.”

Among other examples, the report noted the publication in the Iranian press of “anti-Semitic editorial cartoons depicting demonic and stereotypical images of Jews” and an Iranian television broadcast of a documentary describing “the Jewish plan for genocide of humanity.”

Three-quarters of Iran’s Jews have emigrated in the 30 years since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the State Department report noted that some Iranian Jews are continuing to emigrate, “partially due to continued anti-Semitism by the government and within society.”

Rafael Medoff
Washington, March 16, 2009
The writer is director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies