Dr. Alan Rosen of Yad Vahem spoke with our students during the last Research Forum before the Passover Holiday. Dr. Rosen earned his Ph.D. in literature and religion at Boston University where he studied under the supervision of Elie Wiesel. He has taught Holocaust literature at colleges and universities in Israel and the United States, as well as at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies. Dr. Rosen is the author of two monographs, Sounds of Defiance: The Holocaust, Multilingualism, and the Problem of English (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) and Dislocating the End: Climax, Closure, and the Invention of Genre (Lang, 2001), and editor of Celebrating Elie Wiesel: Stories, Essays, Reflections (University of Notre Dame Press, 1998); Approaches to Teaching Wiesel’s Night (Modern Language Association, 2007) and, with Steven Katz, Obliged by Memory: Literature, Religion, Ethics: A Collection of Essays Honoring Elie Wiesel’s Seventieth Birthday (Syracuse University Press, 2006). In addition, Dr. Rosen has published over a dozen scholarly articles on the Holocaust in literature. He is the recipient of a number of scholarly awards for his research on the Holocaust from YIVO, Bar-Ilan University, Boston University, and the National Center for Genocide Studies. He was the 2004-2005 Ruth Meltzer Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Rosen just completed a book on Jewish calendars during the Holocaust after five years of work. He shared the story of a woman named Sophie who was born in Munich and was deported to Auschwitz on Passover Eve April 19, 1943. Sophie worked in the Auschwitz laundry for one and half years. She created two Jewish calendars in Auschwitz to help the women she lived and worked with observe the Holidays. Prior to being removed from Auschwitz to go on the Death March towards Germany at the end of the war Sophie said the prayer for the way with more fervor than she had before or since. Sophie’s story revealed how some Jews held steadfast to their religious belief in the midst of the death and destruction of the Holocaust.
Dr. Rosen strongly believes one has to understand Judaism and the reflexes that were part of religious Jewry in order to be a Holocaust researcher and understand the responses and experiences of the victims. To that end Dr. Rosen shared a bibliography of sources on religious responses to the Holocaust and he analyzed some primary sources with our students. Students were able to engage in a rich discussion with Dr. Rosen, which included asking him theological questions about the presence and absence of God during the Holocaust, how the Holocaust affected the faith of survivors differently, miracles and how they are recounted, and how Dr. Rosen approaches testimony as a scholar and as a religious Jew. The seminar with Dr. Rosen was informative and enjoyable for our students.
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