This past week the International School at the University of Haifa held a ceremony for all of the international Graduate students. Since our students write their theses from around the world, the ceremony is held in the coordination with their last semester of course work. We were so proud that our student Zahava Moerdler was selected to be the student speaker. You can watch Zahava’s speech, and read the text in this post. Make sure to check out the photos of the rest of our wonderful “graduates” too.
“Rector of the University of Haifa; Dean of Graduate Studies; Dean of Students and Head of the International School; academic and administrative staff members; peer students.
We come from different places around the world. We come with different backgrounds, languages, worldviews and values. We come with varying degrees, specialties, hobbies and professional identities. But we came to the University of Haifa with one goal: we all look to the past because we want a better future. I come from a family, of incredibly stoic Russian immigrants. My grandfather and my grandmother would probably not consider themselves Holocaust survivors and yet their stories reflect those of Soviet Jewry really well. Because of their stoicism we never really spoke about the connection to the Holocaust. I knew my great-grandfather was in the Red army. I knew he fell in battle. I also knew that it was difficult for my grandfather to grow up without a father figure, but I did not know much about my great-grandfather as an individual. I didn’t know anything about his experiences as a soldier. I didn’t even know where he died. For our World War II seminar I read a book all about Red Army soldiers and it encouraged me to look into my family background, into my grandfather’s family and to finally learn where my great-grandfather died.
Our Holocaust studies MA program encourages us to grow academically and personally. Many of us are children or grandchildren of survivors and have increased our knowledge of the Holocaust overall, as well as applied this new knowledge to our own family stories.
The MA program involves four things: first, our classes. We have an incredible faculty who are experts in their fields. We have taken classes ranging from Final Solution and Polish Jewry to psychology, anthropology, literature and visual culture. We have taken languages such as Yiddish, German and Italian. And we have been encouraged to develop our intellectual authority and voices. Second, our internships. The program has a relationship with various museums and institutions in Israel devoted to Holocaust education and museology. We have interns at Yad Vashem, Ghetto Fighter’s House and Mashmaut. Third, the seminars. We have visited Holocaust related sites around the country for day long or week long seminars devoted to specializations in various fields. Finally, the volunteering. We don’t only take but we give. We developed relationships with Holocaust survivors through one on one interactions and also through group programming like folk dancing.
None of this would be possible without our incredible and knowledgeable faculty members, and our supportive and devoted administration. We want to thank you all for everything you have done and for everything you have given us.
To my peers: thank you for pushing me intellectually and personally to grow over the course of this year. Thank you for your insights into everything ranging from our classes to personal life problems. Thank you for making this year and this experience something I will take with me for the rest of my life. We are the sum total of our experiences and this is one that has helped me gain the courage to follow my dreams and continue down the path to making this world a better place.”