National conference at Seton Hill highlights women in the Holocaust

The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference took place from Oct. 21-23 at Seton Hill University. Photos courtesy of the Seton Hill National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education.

“The very same silencing that we witnessed at the highest level in the United States against Dr. Ford is happening on the college level and happened during the Holocaust,” said Elisa von Joeden-Forgey during her presentation “What We Learn from Women: Feminist Approaches to the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide.”

Von Joeden-Forgey was one of the presenters who spoke from Oct. 21-23 at the 2018 Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference held at Seton Hill University. This year’s theme was “Women, the Holocaust and Genocide.”

During her speech, von Joeden-Forgey discussed how in genocide studies, the experience of women has often been seen as a sideline distraction to the major events experienced by men. Von Joeden-Forgey compared this silencing of women’s struggles to her recent work with refugees in Northern Iraq and the current climate for females in college.

“As a woman, I felt very privileged to have been able to attend this conference,” said Lauren Moore, a senior who attended with her Corporate Ethics & Social Responsibility class. “Listening to Dr. von Joeden-Forgey, I felt very liberated to know that there are so many women in today’s society who are determined to break the silence on the crimes committed against women and that is bravery beyond belief.”

Like Moore, various students accompanied their professors at the conference. Members of classes like Western Cultural Traditions I and Introduction to American History were seen in the crowds of the conference.

“This conference is vital to Seton Hill and its mission to foster students’ ability to think and act critically, creatively and ethically as productive members of society committed to transforming the world,” said Jennifer Jones, associate professor of communication at SHU.

According to Jones, the conference also ties in SHU’s four pillars: welcoming, learning, serving and celebrating. The pillar of celebrating was tied into the conference with the Nostra Aetate Award.

“The Nostra Aetate Award acknowledges distinguished work with Christian-Jewish relations,” said Susan Yochum, provost at SHU.

This year’s Nostra Aetate Award winner was Victoria Barnett. Barnett is the director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Programs on Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust and gave a speech entitled “Women’s Interfaith Activism and Resistance: A Case Study from the Holocaust.”

“I sometimes get depressed at the state of the world, but these folks lived through Nazi Germany. What excuse do I have to be thinking like this?” Barnett said. “You bloom where you’re planted.”

Although the conference’s theme was “Women, the Holocaust and Genocide,” there were also many male presenters and attendees. Von Joeden-Forgey took a moment during her presentation to thank male allies at the conference like Tim Crain, the director of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education.

“It was amazing hearing the stories of women’s strength and determination to survive and stay strong during the Holocaust,” said sophomore Frankie Montecalvo, a member of Crain’s Western Cultural Traditions I class.

This year’s conference is being accompanied by an art exhibit by Carolyn Manosevitz and Robert Keffer in SHU’s Harlan Gallery that will run until Nov. 18. All students, staff and faculty are invited to visit the gallery.

Published By: Stephen Dumnich

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