Alumni, Current Students, Holocaust Education, Holocaust Internship, Internships

Cohort V Student reflects on her year in the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies

Mallory

Cohort V Student Mallory

It has already been a month since we said goodbye to Cohort V. Our student Mallory reflects on her life changing year, shares her plans for the future, and gives advice for the students of Cohort VI, who we have the pleasure of welcoming to Haifa later this month.

What were some of your highlights from the past year?

Highlights from the past year circled around learning from the wonderful professors who are instrumental in the field of the Holocaust. Every single professor has a unique teaching style and they all have their own niche. I can only wish we had more time with them! Another major highlight was to see classmates grow into colleagues. Meaning, I look forward to the next few years, staying in touch to learn who earned what job position, or doctorate, or where they will be speaking next – or, how I can get an advanced copy of their amazing book or article! I am certain there are some of us who, because of the education we received at Haifa, will contribute greatly to the new generation of Holocaust academics. We have experienced something special and I think that experience will sustain for years to come.

What impact has the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies had on your life?

The impact of this Program will continue to reverberate in my life for years to come but for now, the greatest impact has been the chance to grow as an academic with those interested in this field. The discussions in and out of class were thought provoking and unique. Moreover, the networking and introduction to possibilities that extend beyond the classroom such as internships and fellowships are the start to my academic career, and a strong one at that. It is only through the Program that such a firm foundation could have been built.

What advice do you have for the students of Cohort VI and beyond?

Seek out, and take advantage of, every opportunity beyond the classroom hours. The professors have dedicated office time, are responsive to email, and will help you flourish in your writing and thinking more than you could imagine. Additionally, the internships and fellowships that are granted exclusively to us are incredible – APPLY! More practically, find a study schedule and stick to it, but remember that you’re in a once in a lifetime opportunity both academically – and geographically! Study, but travel, too. That said, don’t forget why you’re here. You wanted to earn a degree – so earn it. Do the homework, contribute to class dialogue, and enjoy your time. (But definitely travel.)

What are your plans for the future?

My only aim is to finish my thesis. I think once I find myself close to completing that goal, more opportunities and ideas will crop up. In the meantime, it’s research, research, and writing!


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

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Current Students, Eritrean refugees, Genocide Studies, Holocaust Movies, Research Forum, Uncategorized

Cohort V Student shares thoughts on “Sound of Torture” and her decision to study the Holocaust

 

The following is written by Cohort V student Eugenia Mihalcea:

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Eugenia Mihalcea   

The documentary Sound of Torture (2013) written and directed by the Israeli filmmaker Keren Shavo, screened in one of the last Research Forum classes, might have many unspoken things. The director chose to follow the Eritrean radio host and human rights activist Meron Estefanos as she reports on Eritrean refugees who have been captured in Sudan while migrating across the Sinai Peninsula into Israel. Keren Shavo does not address the problem of the Israeli official approach to the Eritreans or to refugees in general, or the criminality in the southern part of Tel Aviv. On the other hand, the documentary reminded me why I chose for research the Holocaust.

In order to explain this, I will tell a story. A few years ago, I came to Israel as a young BA student to learn Hebrew. We were five colleagues from Bucharest willing to learn Hebrew better but also to visit and explore Israel a little bit. One day we went to Tel Aviv, to the beach, we enjoyed the sun, the sea, the sunset. We were staying in Jerusalem, so at some point we realized that we need to go back by bus. We asked around and people guided us to a bus station in the southern part of Tel Aviv. We knew nothing about the Eritrean neighbourhood. We just walked in the dark to the bus station. Until we reached what we imagined is Africa – as Maron said in the documentary. But we did not feel joy and happiness as Maron did. We felt fear. We were afraid. I was afraid of the unknown and unfamiliar people walking around without purpose. I was afraid of their music, of their houses with the doors wide open, of their language I could not understand. I knew nothing. I did not see them as people, as individuals. I saw them as Africans. I was using racial denominations when thinking about them and this was beyond my rational mind.

After almost one year in the International MA program, after exploring other genocides as part of different courses I took, and last but not least, after seeing the abovementioned movie, I can say that engaging in Holocaust Studies is not only about research.

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Unknown people in an unfamiliar environment, speaking a strange language, not having enough food, enough money, living like in a ghetto. Sound familiar? They could be the Eritreans in the south of Tel Aviv. They could be the African refugees living in different European countries nowadays. They could be the Muslims in Western Europe. They were the Jews during the Holocaust.

It is a pattern and even if the planned idea is not to compare, this pattern can be helpful in understanding that every, but every person has a story. And we just need the patience to listen to it.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

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Current Students, Genocide Studies, Research Forum

Cohort V Student Shares on the Cambodian Genocide

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Chenda talks about the Cambodian Genocide. 

Cohort V has the distinct pleasure to include Chenda Seang, our first student from Cambodia. Throughout the year our students sat together in classes with Chenda, but recently Chenda was in the front of the classroom sharing about the Cambodian genocide. Here’s a bit of what he shared:

The Khmer Rouge party was founded in the 1950’s, they grew from a small group of ideological radicals to an organization which overthrew the corrupt government in 1970, led by General Lon Nol. The Khmer Rouge aligned themselves against this government but also against the western bloc and the communist bloc, though the Khmer Rouge was communist, it pushed back on Russian and Chinese communist agendas. They designed their own Cambodian communism. Because of their refusal to work with either Russian communists or the Chinese communists the Khmer Rouge government gained support from the US government, who was fearing a domino effect in Asia. American support is clearly complicated, nevertheless a direct line of American support is noted.

IMG_3656American foreign interests were specifically concerned about Vietnam, Cambodia’s neighbor. The Vietnam War spilled over national borders into Cambodia; American intelligence thought that Vietnamese guerilla outfits were stationed in Cambodia, so a series of secret bombardments were carried out in Cambodia between 1969 to 1973. These bombings didn’t end communist influences in Cambodia rather it strengthened it, specifically the Khmer Rouge. The Cambodian people turned to the Khmer Rouge. They offered security, food, and shelter.

When, Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader, led a march into Phnom Penh, the capital city, the people welcomed him thinking the new Communist regime would bring peace to Cambodia. One of the first actions as established rulers in Cambodia, was to implement mass killings of soldiers, political enemies, and anyone associated with the old government. Then they turned on intellectuals, lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers and other professional people. Thousands were killed immediately and brutally by the Khmer Rouge.

Throughout the Khmer Rouge reign, confessions were held through severe torture, most did not survive. The confessions made during these torture sessions resulted in a long list of names of people who were also supposedly politically subversive to the Khmer Rouge party. This led to chaos in Cambodia, Khmer Rouge “gangsters,” as they called themselves, murdered people openly in the streets and secretly in the forests for example, without any real cause other than allegations that the victims belonged to the old regime.

The Khmer Rouge saw city-dwellers as dangerous because cities held out the longest against communist influence, while rural populations were more easily swayed. As a result, the Khmer Rouge evacuated all cities, with a vision for a more agricultural society. City residents were told that the US was planning to bomb the cities so they had to evacuate quickly, but they would return to their homes in a few days, consequently most did not pack sufficiently for the long journey ahead, thousands died from starvation and exhaustion.

In the villages a sort of ranking began, “base people” or “old people,” those who had lived in the villages before April 17, 1975 were deemed safe, but “new people” or those who were forcefully deported to the villages after April 17, 1975, were regarded as unsafe, and were kept at a distance. Most villages weren’t fit for the massive population growth and many died from poor living conditions.

The Khmer Rouge’s vision for a more agricultural society meant an industrial development of agriculture with unrealistic expectations. Their Four Year Plan included a doubling of the rice production between 1977 and 1978. This resulted in exhaustion which led to starvation and death. Most of the land, even with industrial improvements, wasn’t able to cultivate these amounts production, so the Khmer Rouge cut food rations. They realized that land in the Northwest was more fertile, but because of drought even they weren’t able to meet goals. This region was also, according to Pol Pot, more susceptible to Vietnamese influence. As a result, the Northwest and Eastern-zone regions were “purged” of Vietnamese influence.

In one of the most inhumane acts of the Khmer Rouge, residents of this area were forced to march into the interior, many died along the way. During the march, Khmer Rouge members gave blue striped scarves to those they deemed most ideologically dangerous, these scarves acted as symbols for the Khmer Rouge members to kill them in their new destinations. Chenda brought one of these scarves with him to Israel, and he wears it often. He explained this is part of Cambodian culture to bring your scarf with you wherever you go.

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Chenda wearing his blue scarf from Cambodia in the Auschwitz archives. 

Chenda’s research makes him particularly interested in post genocidal aftermaths, because he lives in a post-traumatic society. This is one of the reasons Chenda chose to study the Holocaust. Chenda says that there is a loss of trust in Cambodian society and many young people wonder about their backgrounds. The trauma of genocide makes a division between the old and the young in the nation. Chenda shared with us that his mother was a survivor of the genocide, and she told much of her history to him. As a trend, children of survivors know their parents’ stories. But Chenda’s father was a member of the Khmer Rouge, and they never talked about his involvement. Many of the Khmer Rouge members were never tried in court, but after the fall of the regime, continued with their normal lives. Essentially, Chenda is hoping to bring restoration and healing to Cambodian society, and we hope that we’ve helped him through the resources we’ve offered as a result of our program.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

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Current Events, Current Students

A Reflection on Cohort V

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Students sitting with donors, Marianne and Doron Livnat and Director of the Program, Arieh Kochavi. 

Our year with Cohort V is coming to an end. We will be with them for another month then they will return to the far reaches of the world. To celebrate our year, we held an event with our generous donors, Doron and Marianne Livnat, as we simultaneously celebrated the life of Yitzhak Weiss-Livnat. With a heavy heart we grieve the loss of our great friend and partner, but we also laud him and his family for the existence of our program. Through the family’s generosity, this year alone, they have effected 30 students, but in actuality they have infinitely changed the world as we send our students out with the tools to impact the world.

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Mallory and Dr. Shmulik Lederman

Many of our students shared what it meant to them to be a part of Yitzhak Weiss-Livnat’s legacy. One of the most touching comments was from Mallory, who comes to us from California, and her research is mostly with the Einsatzgruppen and specific aktions. She spoke about Abba Kovner and his manifesto, which was a warning to Jews and pleaded them to “Resist, resist until your last our breath.” After the Holocaust, in an interview he was asked why he wrote the manifesto. He said that he wanted to ignite resistance in the Jewish people with this small flame. Mallory said that this program has been the ignition she needed to start a blazing fire, which we can all bring to our respective homes. She also commented on the diversity in the program, as we looked around the room we realized that no one was sitting next to someone like them: their neighbors were from another country, older or younger, etc. What Mallory said reflects well on our program; our diverse students are now well equipped to enter the professional world, and make a lasting impact.

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Other students talked about different opportunities made available to them by the program including internships at Atlit Detention Center, the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum and Yad Vashem. Our students have shaped databases, installed exhibits and formed educational programs. Other students talked about different research conferences they were able to attend; this year we sent students to Austria; Romania; Germany; and Poland. Our students have also put together a publication on Jewish artists, most of whom perished in the Holocaust, and their work before, during, and after the Holocaust. The accomplishments of this year were humbling and a good harbinger of what is to come from our impressive students.

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Dr. Rachel Perry sharing about a new publication her class wrote early this year. 

Though most of our students are finished with the coursework, this isn’t a true farewell because the resources and professional network that we offer our students will always play a significant role in their professional lives. We look forward to seeing the professional progress of our students.

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Wei shares about his year with Cohort V. 


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

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Current Students, Seminars

Weiss-Livnat Seminar in Warsaw: Initiating Dialog Between Israeli, German, and Polish Students

Written by Devra Katz


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Polin Museum

This past summer I had the privilege of participating in the Polin Meeting Point Summer Education School hosted at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland.  The program, a two-week seminar, invited students from Germany, Poland, and Israel to come together and, using various methodologies, explore issues related to post World War II reconstruction in Poland and Germany, and the emergence of Israeli statehood and citizenship.  This topic sparked very interesting and illuminating discussions among the students and brought to light issues of national narratives and identity politics in Poland, Germany, and Israel.

The program incorporated a multifaceted, interdisciplinary approach in order to engage participants and enhance the learning environment.  First and foremost, the seminar invited numerous prestigious scholars from Poland, Germany, and Israel to speak to the group.  Some of the best in their field, the guest scholars gave very interesting, informative, and engaging presentations which generated enlightening discussions that continued beyond the length of each session.  This approach and these lectures were some of the more special aspects of the program.  Through these discussions, our international group got the opportunity to really get to know one another and delve deeper into various narratives – personal, political, historical, and national – experienced by all the participants and their various home countries.

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Historic Warsaw

In addition to the scholarship, we spent a great deal of time touring historic Warsaw and many sites in the city relevant to World War II, the Holocaust, and the years following the war.  Among these sites were the former Warsaw ghetto, Paviak prison, the Jewish cemetery, various monuments around the city, the Jewish Historical Institute, and many more.  We were also given access to the museum’s archives and research facilities allowing us to engage relevant material and to search for documents relevant to family histories or other research projects.  Furthermore, the group spent two days visiting the city of Wroclaw, where a Polish graduate from the Weiss-Livnat program guided us through the city’s Jewish, pre-war, and post-war history.  During the program we participated in several workshops about oral history and completed final projects using oral history interviews we conducted during the seminar.  This very packed program made for a well rounded and insightful two weeks of study, participation in cross-cultural dialogue, and a unique opportunity to meet and work with peers in our respective fields from diverse backgrounds.

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Paviak Prison

The various aspects of this program provided a wonderful platform to learn a great deal, experience post-war Poland first hand, meet great people from different countries, and foster relationships, both professional and personal, that have carried on beyond the scope of the seminar.  As a student in the Weiss-Livnat International MA in Holocaust Studies program, this is just one of the many opportunities I have been afforded to expand my education, travel to places significant to the subject of the Holocaust and to my research, and grow as a scholar and global citizen.

One of the primary purposes of the POLIN Meeting Point program was to initiate dialogue between German, Polish, and Israeli students and work to build relationships at the grassroots level between the three countries.  I am very grateful for having participated in the program and I feel that my anticipation and expectations for this seminar were truly surpassed.  Originally from the United States, I am also still learning the Israeli national narratives and sentiments, and participation in this program furthered my understanding of the society in which I live and the community in which I learn. My time as a student in the Weiss-Livnat program has been enriched by participating in partner programs such as the POLIN Meeting Point, and I am thankful for the contribution it has made to my education and life experiences.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

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Current Students, Holocaust Internship, Volunteer Work

Alexa talks about AMCHA

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Q: What will you be doing at with AMCHA?
A: At AMCHA, I will be working one on one with a Holocaust survivor. Visiting and spending time with them once a week. It’s an opportunity for survivors to develop a new connection with someone and for me it’s a huge privilege to hear their story.

Q: What makes you most excited to be working with AMCHA ?
A: AMCHA is a very special organization that does a huge service to Holocaust survivors and their children, the opportunity to develop a working relationship with them is a rare opportunity.

Q: What brought you working with AMCHA?
A: I was attracted to working with AMCHA for personal reasons. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and I was lucky to have had the chance to spend time with her in her later years after I moved to Israel. She passed away two years ago, but I will always treasure our time together. To meet and spend time with another survivor, someone else’s grandmother, is not only an amazing learning opportunity but also an opportunity to do something good for my soul.

Q: Who will you be working with? or who would you like to volunteer with?
A: The volunteer coordinator at AMCHA has been very helpful in pairing me with a survivor who can help with my thesis research. My area of study within Holocaust research is on the psychological impact of the Holocaust for women on motherhood and family life post Holocaust. I have been set up with a female survivor who is open to discussing this topic with me. This is a primary resource that I could never have found elsewhere.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: AMCHA is a wonderful organization dedicated to providing counseling and trauma services for Holocaust survivors and their children. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with them.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

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Current Students, Internships, Research

John Shares about Internships at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum

Starring John Roxborough


John has an internship this year with the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. He will be researching and working with artifacts in the impressive archives to share individual stories of the Holocaust.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

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